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Culture war games: social stratification and human sacrifice

Feeding the gods: Hundreds of skulls reveal massive scale of human sacrifice in Aztec capital
By Lizzie Wade

Human sacrifice occupied a particularly important place in Mesoamerica. Many of the region’s cultures, including the Maya and the Mexica, believed that human sacrifice nourished the gods. Without it, the sun would cease to rise and the world would end. And sacrificial victims earned a special, honored place in the afterlife.

Ritual killings in traditional cultures elsewhere in the world, including Asia and Europe, point to additional roles for the practice, and may help explain why the Mexica took it to such an extreme. “All premodern societies make some kind of offering,” Verano says. “And in many societies, if not all, the most valuable sacrifice is human life.” Social scientists who study religion have shown that costly offerings and painful rituals, such as the bloodletting ceremonies the Mexica also practiced, can help define and strengthen group identity—especially in societies that have grown too large for everyone to know everyone else.

Some researchers also argue that killing captives or subjects both establishes and reinforces hierarchy in large, complex societies. A 2016 Nature paper, for example, linked human sacrifice to the development of social stratification in dozens of traditional Austronesian cultures.

Many researchers say that, for the Mexica, political power as well as religious belief is likely key to understanding the scale of the practice. Theirs was a relatively young empire; during their 200-year reign, they conquered territory all over central and southern Mexico, sometimes facing tremendous resistance from local communities (some of which would later ally with the Spanish against the empire). Spanish chronicles describe Tenochtitlan’s sacrificial victims as captives brought back from wars, such as those fought with their archenemy, the nearby republic of Tlaxcala. Subject peoples in the Mexica Empire were also sometimes required to send individuals as tribute. “The killing of captives, even in a ritual context, is a strong political statement,” Verano says. “It’s a way to demonstrate power and political influence—and, some people have said, it’s a way to control your own population.”

“The more powerful a state was, the more victims it could dedicate,” says Ximena Chávez Balderas, an INAH bioarchaeologist who spent years studying the remains of sacrificial victims in offerings in the Templo Mayor; she is now Verano’s doctoral student at Tulane. The religious significance and political messaging of human sacrifice “go hand in hand,” she says.

How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life
By Jon Ronson

On July 15, 1742, a woman named Abigail Gilpin, her husband at sea, had been found “naked in bed with one John Russell.” They were both to be “whipped at the public whipping post 20 stripes each.” Abigail was appealing the ruling, but it wasn’t the whipping itself she wished to avoid. She was begging the judge to let her be whipped early, before the town awoke. “If your honor pleases,” she wrote, “take some pity on me for my dear children who cannot help their unfortunate mother’s failings.”

There was no record as to whether the judge consented to her plea, but I found a number of clips that offered clues as to why she might have requested private punishment. In a sermon, the Rev. Nathan Strong, of Hartford, Conn., entreated his flock to be less exuberant at executions. “Go not to that place of horror with elevated spirits and gay hearts, for death is there! Justice and judgment are there!” Some papers published scathing reviews when public punishments were deemed too lenient by the crowd: “Suppressed remarks . . . were expressed by large numbers,” reported Delaware’s Wilmington Daily Commercial of a disappointing 1873 whipping. “Many were heard to say that the punishment was a farce. . . . Drunken fights and rows followed in rapid succession.”

The movement against public shaming had gained momentum in 1787, when Benjamin Rush, a physician in Philadelphia and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote a paper calling for its demise — the stocks, the pillory, the whipping post, the lot. “Ignominy is universally acknowledged to be a worse punishment than death,” he wrote. “It would seem strange that ignominy should ever have been adopted as a milder punishment than death, did we not know that the human mind seldom arrives at truth upon any subject till it has first reached the extremity of error.”

The pillory and whippings were abolished at the federal level in 1839, although Delaware kept the pillory until 1905 and whippings until 1972. An 1867 editorial in The Times excoriated the state for its obstinacy. “If [the convicted person] had previously existing in his bosom a spark of self-respect this exposure to public shame utterly extinguishes it. . . . The boy of 18 who is whipped at New Castle for larceny is in nine cases out of 10 ruined. With his self-respect destroyed and the taunt and sneer of public disgrace branded upon his forehead, he feels himself lost and abandoned by his fellows.”

At the archives, I found no evidence that punitive shaming fell out of fashion as a result of newfound anonymity. But I did find plenty of people from centuries past bemoaning the outsize cruelty of the practice, warning that well-meaning people, in a crowd, often take punishment too far.

The Dark Psychology of Social Networks
By Jonathan Haidt and Tobias Rose-Stockwell

… in “Federalist No. 10,” James Madison wrote about his fear of the power of “faction,” by which he meant strong partisanship or group interest that “inflamed [men] with mutual animosity” and made them forget about the common good. He thought that the vastness of the United States might offer some protection from the ravages of factionalism, because it would be hard for anyone to spread outrage over such a large distance. Madison presumed that factious or divisive leaders “may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States.” The Constitution included mechanisms to slow things down, let passions cool, and encourage reflection and deliberation.

The social psychologist Mark Leary coined the term sociometer to describe the inner mental gauge that tells us, moment by moment, how we’re doing in the eyes of others. We don’t really need self-esteem, Leary argued; rather, the evolutionary imperative is to get others to see us as desirable partners for various kinds of relationships. Social media, with its displays of likes, friends, followers, and retweets, has pulled our sociometers out of our private thoughts and posted them for all to see.

If you constantly express anger in your private conversations, your friends will likely find you tiresome, but when there’s an audience, the payoffs are different—outrage can boost your status. A 2017 study by William J. Brady and other researchers at NYU measured the reach of half a million tweets and found that each moral or emotional word used in a tweet increased its virality by 20 percent, on average. Another 2017 study, by the Pew Research Center, showed that posts exhibiting “indignant disagreement” received nearly twice as much engagement—including likes and shares—as other types of content on Facebook.

The philosophers Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke have proposed the useful phrase moral grandstanding to describe what happens when people use moral talk to enhance their prestige in a public forum. Like a succession of orators speaking to a skeptical audience, each person strives to outdo previous speakers, leading to some common patterns. Grandstanders tend to “trump up moral charges, pile on in cases of public shaming, announce that anyone who disagrees with them is obviously wrong, or exaggerate emotional displays.” Nuance and truth are casualties in this competition to gain the approval of the audience. Grandstanders scrutinize every word spoken by their opponents—and sometimes even their friends—for the potential to evoke public outrage. Context collapses. The speaker’s intent is ignored.

Human beings evolved to gossip, preen, manipulate, and ostracize. We are easily lured into this new gladiatorial circus, even when we know that it can make us cruel and shallow. As the Yale psychologist Molly Crockett has argued, the normal forces that might stop us from joining an outrage mob—such as time to reflect and cool off, or feelings of empathy for a person being humiliated—are attenuated when we can’t see the person’s face, and when we are asked, many times a day, to take a side by publicly “liking” the condemnation.

In other words, social media turns many of our most politically engaged citizens into Madison’s nightmare: arsonists who compete to create the most inflammatory posts and images, which they can distribute across the country in an instant while their public sociometer displays how far their creations have traveled.

Putin’s One Weapon: The ‘Intelligence State’
By John Sipher

After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Vladimir Lenin established a secret police service called the Cheka to be his main weapon of repression and terror. Under Felix Dzerzhinsky, a ruthless revolutionary, the Cheka was tasked with keeping the leadership in power at all costs. It served as judge, jury and executioner for the state, using sabotage, censorship, repression and murder to keep the population in line and external enemies at bay.

As Dzerzhinsky remarked, “We stand for organized terror,” and “the Cheka is obliged to defend the revolution and conquer the enemy even if its sword does by chance sometimes fall upon the heads of the innocent.”

A Failed Case Against Free Speech
By Stephen Rohde

During the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Lenin also complained about the lack of free speech and free press under the czars. And like Moskowitz, Lenin argued that the “capitalists have always used the term ‘freedom’ to mean freedom for the rich to get richer and for the workers to starve to death.” But as soon as Lenin secured power he had quite a new definition of freedom:

Why should freedom of speech and freedom of press be allowed? Why should a government which is doing what it believes to be right allow itself to be criticized? It would not allow opposition by lethal weapons. Ideas are much more fatal things than guns. Why should any man be allowed to buy a printing press and disseminate pernicious opinions calculated to embarrass the government?

Fifty years later, Herbert Marcuse, the German-American philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist who was highly influential in the 1960s and 1970s, became known by many as the “father of the New Left.” In his 1965 essay “Repressive Tolerance,” he argued that tolerance of reactionary speech was “inauthentic.” “Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left.” If the wishes of the people in a democracy are “blocked by organized repression and indoctrination, their reopening may require apparently undemocratic means.”

They would include the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements that promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, Social Security, medical care, et cetera. Moreover, the restoration of freedom of thought may necessitate new and rigid restrictions on teachings and practices in the educational institutions which, by their very methods and concepts, serve to enclose the mind within the established universe of discourse and behavior — thereby precluding a priori a rational evaluation of the alternatives.

Marcuse claimed it was possible

to define the direction in which prevailing institutions, policies, opinions would have to be changed in order to improve the chance of a peace which is not identical with cold war and a little hot war, and a satisfaction of needs which does not feed on poverty, oppression, and exploitation.

Therefore, according to Marcuse, it was “also possible to identify policies, opinions, movements which would promote this chance, and those which would do the opposite. Suppression of the regressive ones is a prerequisite for the strengthening of the progressive ones.” With unabashed bluntness, Marcuse endorsed the “cancellation of the liberal creed of free and equal discussion.” We must, he said, be “militantly intolerant,” protecting the “violence of defense” but not the “violence of aggression.”

Marcuse made brutally explicit the inevitable result about which Moskowitz is far more circumspect. But Marcuse’s strategy never took hold. In a 2014 assessment in Dissent magazine, Stephen J. Whitfield, a professor of American Studies at Brandeis University and author of Into the Dark: Hannah Arendt and Totalitarianism, asked, “[H]as the stature of any intellectual fallen more dramatically than that of Herbert Marcuse?” After a searching analysis, Whitfield concluded that insofar “as the most pressing challenge that confronts the left today is how to enlist the political will to address the injustice of economic inequality, the intellectual and moral legacy of Herbert Marcuse won’t be due for a revival anytime soon.”

The Left is Now the Right
By Matt Taibbi

Conservatives once tried to legislate what went on in your bedroom; now it’s the left that obsesses over sexual codicils, not just for the bedroom but everywhere. Right-wingers from time to time made headlines campaigning against everything from The Last Temptation of Christ to “Fuck the Police,” though we laughed at the idea that Ice Cube made cops literally unsafe, and it was understood an artist had to do something fairly ambitious, like piss on a crucifix in public, to get conservative protesters off their couches.

Today Matt Yglesias signing a group letter with Noam Chomsky is considered threatening. Moreover a lot less than booking a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit can get you in the soup – a headline, a retweet, even likes are costing people jobs. Imagine how many movies Milos Forman would have had to make if Jerry Falwell had been able to get people fired this easily.

This is separate from the Democratic Party “moving right,” or in the case of issues like war, financial deregulation, and surveillance, having always been in lockstep with the right. This is about a change in the personality profile of the party’s most animated, engaged followers.

Many who marched against Dick Cheney’s spy state in the early 2000s lost interest once Donald Trump became a target, then became full converts to the possibilities of centralized speech control after Russiagate, Charlottesville, and the de-platforming of Alex Jones, with even the ACLU wobbling. (Some of the only left media figures to be consistent on this issue work at the World Socialist Web Site, which has gone after woke icons like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over Internet censorship). Support for the “radical transparency” concept that made Wikileaks famous receded in favor of a referendum on the political and sexual iniquity of Julian Assange: many activists today are more concerned with who than what and find nuance, contradiction, and double-meaning repulsive. Bad person = bad idea!

Is there such a thing as a left-wing authoritarian?
By Andre Spicer

Costello and his team used standard psychological procedures to developed a new test for identifying people with “left-wing authoritarian” personality types. They identified some tell-tale signs of left-wing authoritarians: They believe people in power should be punished and the existing order should be violently overthrown. They see people with opposing political views as inherently immoral and prefer to be surrounded by people who share their values. They think the government or other institutions should forcefully stop people from sharing views they find abhorrent.

Left-wing authoritarians, in Costello’s research, typically strongly agree with the following statements: the rich should be stripped of their belongs and status; deep-down just about all conservatives are racist, sexist and homophobic; classrooms can be safe spaces that protect students from the discussion of harmful ideas.

Costello’s team also wanted to understand whether left-wing authoritarians behave in a different way to the rest of the population. Using a simple game, they found left-wing authoritarians were much more likely to punish others who held opposing political beliefs and favour people who shared their beliefs.

Everyone Who’s Lost Their Job During the Racism Reckoning of 2020
By Tarpley Hitt

Person: Wendy Melsey

Job: Host of The Weekly with Wendy Mesley on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Date: June 9, 2020

Reason: In preparation for an episode on Black Lives Matter and racism coverage in the media, Mesley “used a word that should never be used.” In a statement given to the podcast Canadaland, Mesley elaborated: “In the context of an editorial discussion about current issues regarding race, I used a word that should never be used… It was not aimed at anyone, I was quoting a journalist we were intending to interview on a panel discussion about coverage of racial inequality.”

A CBC spokesperson told Canadaland that Mesley had been removed from her position, pending an investigation into the incident. Mesley reportedly apologized to her co-workers “immediately,” adding, “I was careless with my language and wrong to say it. Regardless of my intention, I hurt people and for that I am very sorry. I am also deeply ashamed.”

Ill-considered posts lead to lost jobs amid protests, crisis
By Andrew Dalton

Lost jobs over social media statements that seemed like a good idea at the time have become a common occurrence, but the tense environment of nationwide protests against racism and police brutality with the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic have made Twitter, Instagram and Facebook especially dangerous for those who want to remain among the employed.

“If you’re in a situation like this, you’ve got to read the room,” Deraney said. You’ve got to get a sense of what’s going on. You don’t need to always say something. These people who are getting fired or resigning, they’re not realizing this.”

Stop Firing the Innocent
By Yascha Mounk

When Cafferty was wrongly accused of being a white supremacist, he fought hard to keep his job. He said he explained to the people carrying out the investigation—all of them were white—that he had no earthly idea some racists had tried to appropriate the “okay” sign for their sinister purposes. He told them he simply wasn’t interested in politics; as far as he remembered, he had not voted in a single election. Eventually, he told me, “I got so desperate, I was showing them the color of my skin. I was saying, ‘Look at me. Look at the color of my skin.’”

It was all to no avail. SDG&E, Cafferty told me, never presented him with any evidence that he held racist beliefs or knew about the meaning of his gesture. Yet he was terminated.

The loss of his job has left Cafferty shaken. A few days ago, he spoke with a mental-health counselor for the first time in his life. “A man can learn from making a mistake,” he told me. “But what am I supposed to learn from this? It’s like I was struck by lightning.”

After Cafferty told his side of the story, the initial social-media vilification he had experienced gave way to a kind of embarrassed silence. The man who had posted a picture of the encounter on Twitter deleted his account and admitted to Priya Sridhar, a local news reporter, that he “may have gotten ‘spun up’ about the interaction and misinterpreted it.” Repeatedly asked whether they had any evidence that Cafferty was a white supremacist, had known the meaning of the inverted “okay” symbol, or had previously been reprimanded for his performance, SDG&E refused to answer. Nor did the company respond to my request for confirmation that the team that had investigated Cafferty was all white.

As for Cafferty, his only desire, even now, is to get his job back. When I asked him whether he’d like to share anything else with me at the end of a long interview, his first thought was for the company that had fired him: “I feel like SDG&E is a victim in this as well. Some guy sent a Twitter mob after them and they were just trying to defend themselves. Perhaps I’m naive and loyal to a fault, but they were put in a bad position.”

Majdi Wadi’s life is a testament to the opportunities America offers immigrants and refugees. He came to Minneapolis from Palestine and started a business, Holy Land, a food and catering company that now employs nearly 200 people. The local press is full of articles lauding his achievements and his determination to give back to the community. On the company’s 25th anniversary, Representative Keith Ellison, now the attorney general of Minnesota, celebrated it in a short speech on the floor of the House of Representatives.

“Where I came from, you have no right to dream,” Wadi told me. “Here, after a while, I realized you can dream. And then I realized you can achieve your dreams. And then I realized the sky is the limit. And then I realized beyond the sky is the limit.”

But Wadi’s American dream came crashing down to Earth on June 4, when his 24-year-old daughter admitted to him that she had written a series of deeply racist and anti-Semitic posts on Twitter and Instagram starting when she was 14 years old until she was 18. An activist had drawn public attention to these posts after stumbling across an especially noxious one. That same day, Wadi did what he describes as “one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do in my life”: he fired his daughter from her position as the company’s catering director.

Neither Wadi’s long standing in the community nor his quick action to sever his company’s ties with his daughter are likely to salvage his company. Nearly all of his business partners have canceled their contracts. His landlord terminated the bakery’s lease.

After he saw his life’s work evaporate in a few days, Wadi reluctantly told me, he has struggled to sustain his belief in the American dream. “All that I’m asking is that everyone who canceled our lease, who threw out our products, who is calling for a boycott of our produce give us a chance to prove that this is not who we are.”

What all of these rather different cases have in common is that none of the people who were deprived of a livelihood in the name of fighting racism appear to have been guilty of actually perpetuating racism.

Millions Have Lost Health Insurance in Pandemic-Driven Recession
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg

The coronavirus pandemic stripped an estimated 5.4 million American workers of their health insurance between February and May, a stretch in which more adults became uninsured because of job losses than have ever lost coverage in a single year, according to a new analysis.

The study, to be announced Tuesday by the nonpartisan consumer advocacy group Families USA, found that the estimated increase in uninsured workers from February to May was nearly 40 percent higher than the highest previous increase, which occurred during the recession of 2008 and 2009, when 3.9 million adults lost insurance.

And those losing coverage could face staggering costs if they are struck by Covid-19, which has sent the seriously ill to hospital intensive care units for weeks, sometimes months.

Four of every five people who have lost employer-provided health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic are eligible for free coverage through expanded Medicaid programs or government-subsidized private insurance through the Obama-era health law, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But experts say that insuring the recently unemployed is a difficult challenge. Many people cannot afford premiums for coverage through either the health care law or the program known as COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. Others might not know they are eligible for Medicaid.

5 Reasons Why People Love Cancel Culture
By Rob Henderson

1. Cancel culture increases social status. The most powerful motive underpinning cancel culture is social status. Research reveals that sociometric status (respect and admiration from our peers) is more important to our sense of well-being than socioeconomic status. Furthermore, a recent study found that a high social class predicts a greater desire for wealth and status than a low social class. Put differently, it is those who already have status and money who have a stronger craving for status and money relative to other people. For many affluent people, that drive is how they got to their lofty positions in the first place. Aggravating this drive is that they are typically surrounded by people just like them—their peers and competitors are also affluent status-maximizers. They are constantly seeking new ways to either move upward or avoid slipping downward. For social strivers, cancel culture has created new opportunities to move up by taking others down.

4. Cancel culture forces enemies to reveal themselves. Cancel culture allows people to identify who is loyal to their movement. Broadcasting the transgressions of others forces everyone to respond. Though targets of cancel culture commit transgressions of varying degrees of severity, often they have done something that has gone out of fashion. This is perfect for social coordination, because it means people will disagree about whether the person should be exiled. If everyone agreed that the target should be denigrated, then there’s no way to identify friend from foe. But if some agree and some disagree, then you know who is a committed group member and who is an adversary. Those who ask for evidence of the alleged wrongdoing, or question the severity of the transgression, or debate the propriety of cancel culture, have revealed themselves to be unfaithful to the cause. Rallying around a morally ambiguous transgression and seeing how people react permits the recruitment of assenters and the targeting of dissenters.

How knitters got knotted in a purity spiral
By Gavin Haynes

Our documentary analysed just two latter-day purity spirals — Instagram knitting culture and young adult novels. Both seemed perfectly-sized to be taken over — they were spaces big enough to have their own star system, yet small enough for the writ of a dominant group to hold.

In each, a vast tapestry of what were effectively small businesses competed for attention online by fluidly mixing personal and professional brand. On social media, opinion, diary and sales often existed within the same posts. Each individual small business was uniquely vulnerable to being un-personed, ‘cancelled’. But, simultaneously, each could benefit enormously from taking on the status of thought leader — from becoming a node that directed moral traffic.

To take the example of Instagram knitting: the unravelling began with a man called Nathan Taylor. Gay, living with HIV, nice as pie, Taylor started a hashtag aimed at promoting diversity in knitting, Diversknitty, to get people from different backgrounds to talk. And he did: the hashtag was a runaway hit, spawning over 17,000 posts.

But over the following months, the conversation took on a more strident tone. The list of things considered problematic grew. The definition of racism began to take on the terms mandated by intersectional social justice ideology. Knitters who wished to be on the right side of history began to post pictures of the books they were reading. Two came up over and over again. White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo, or the Me and White SupremacyWorkbook, by Layla Saad.

The term ‘racism’ had taken on its broad, all encompassing, ‘systemic’ meaning: the idea that “we live in a racist society”, and that this inbuilt, inescapable institutional racism is policed by a thousand and one daily micro-aggressions.

White Fragility in particular implied that all dissent from its tenets was itself a sign of racism. Like Stalin’s show trials or witch-ducking, the loop had been closed. In game theory terms, objecting to something was now always a dominant strategy, and rejecting an allegation of racism was always a losing strategy. Inevitably, a ratchet effect took hold in which those with the most strident vision of what ‘diversity’ meant were effectively handed the keys to the castle. That is — until someone with a more strident vision turned up behind them…

By January 2019, this narrative of white supremacy and racial privilege had saturated the knitting world. What happened next was not something very important. In fact, it was the opposite. Something very trivial happened; a tiny spark, that landed on bone dry tinder.

In January, a popular knitter from Nashville, Karen Templer, wrote a blog about her upcoming first-ever trip to India, in which she suggested the experience would be like “being offered a seat on a flight to Mars”. Cue: outrage at her racial insensitivity. Hundreds of comments later, Templer issued a lengthy apology: turned out she loved Big Brother after all.

Seeing what had happened to Templer, in January last year a Seattle wool dyer called Maria Tusken decided she would take the smallest of stands. In passing, she announced on her vlog that she was taking a break from Instagram because of what she saw as ‘online bullying’ in the knitting world.

If she had any lingering doubt about whether or not the bullying was real, the tsunami of denunciation that ensued probably cleared that up.

Clearly, the spiral had entered its final phase: it was no longer enough to just stay out of it. Only positive affirmations of support — and only in the most-correct tone and timbre — could save you now.

Professor Timur Kuran is Professor of Economics and Political Science at Duke University, and the father of ‘preference falsification’. His theory relates to things like the fall of the Soviet Union, where almost no one saw the end coming, because they hadn’t realised that an entire population was falsifying their experience to each other. He sees a clear parallel.

“People who are trying to prevent members of society from speaking the truth will often punish minor criticisms,” he told me. “Simply to send the message to the rest of society that no dissent will be tolerated and no attempt to form an opposing group — even one that differs only slightly from the status quo — will be tolerated. If you allow minor differences, you allow people to coordinate around minor differences, and that can encourage even greater opposition. If people get that sense, then the whole process can unravel.”

Finally, just as the guillotine had eventually come for Robespierre, Nathan Taylor, who had founded the #Diversknitty movement, found himself at its sharp end.

When Taylor tried to inject positivity back into Diversknitty, his moral authority burnt up inside minutes. A poem he’d written asking knitters to cool it (“With genuine SOLEM-KNITTY/I beg you, stop the enmity”) was in turn interpreted as a blatant act of white supremacy. When the mob finally came for him, he had a nervous breakdown. Yet even here, he was accused of malingering, his suicidal hospitalisation described online as a ‘white centring’ event.

Once it has gathered momentum, the dynamics of a purity spiral are those of a leaderless cult. You hold a viewpoint that privileges an abstraction of the world over the messy reality. You have a sense of mission which sets you apart from the world, and you derive social status from being holier than the next acolyte.

So when someone comes calling from “realityland” with a list of questions, the mere fact of having their viewpoint interrogated represents an existential threat to the sacred viewpoint. They circle the wagons.

In making the programme, I approached more than 20 of the leading social justice knitters for comment. I assumed these strident anti-racists would be delighted to proclaim their gospel on the Beeb. Not one did.

Where does a purity spiral end? Results may vary. “I get lots of emails these days from people in all kinds of walks of life where this is happening,” said James Lindsay, one of the three grievance studies hoaxers, and a long-time foe of intersectional social justice ideology. “I get reached out to from Dungeons & Dragons societies, rock climbing, from religions.”

Lindsay pointed to the atheist movement of the mid-2000s, from which he’d come: a community that once had the wind in its sails, but had imploded into infighting by 2011, as half of its members jagged off in an social justice direction. Soon enough, the likes of the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins were being problematised as stale, male and pale. The rules on who could speak became more byzantine, and, eventually, half the audience stopped bothering. These days, there are effectively two communities bearing the New Atheism tag, each much weaker and less coherent.

For knitting, the situation had gone from bad to very bad, but there was no evidence it had bottomed out. As the summer dragged on, the Nordic wool bible Laine magazine was forced to apologise for having too many white faces on their pricey knitting retreat. The auto-cannibalisation doomsday clock had gone so far that now even the instigators were having their privilege severely checked. Ysolda Teague, a Scot who had been one of the leading social justice knitters, published a lengthy apology on Instagram which began with the immortal line:

“Earlier this week I conducted a live interview in which I failed to acknowledge the extent of the deeply painful, difficult labour BIPOC [Black and Indigenous Persons of Colour] have done in our community since January…”

But then, at the end of September, something twitched. Nathan Taylor published a vlog setting out his side of everything that had happened. The social justice knitters dismissed it in the usual. Many recommended that others not watch it — always a signal that something has struck a chord.

After sharing his story, Nathan received well over a thousand messages of support. He also saw a huge spike in pattern sales — so much so that in two weeks he recovered all that he’d lost in cancelled work.

Having been an unhappy tourist inside a couple of purity spirals for many months, my sense is that the phenomenon isn’t going anywhere. These are deep psychological truths about humanity, carved into the cliff-face of how we construct our societies. The cudgels of morality will always be a convenient lever for hidden competition — you can pretend to be socialising the private realm, when in effect you’re privatising the social realm for your own status gain.

‘Sheer glee and cruelty’: The sad death of Wilson Gavin and the dangers of mob rule
By Shannon Molloy

On Sunday, joined by a group of mates, Brisbane university student Wilson Gavin walked into a library and began loudly protesting a drag queen reading programme for children.

The footage from the event showed the protesters chanting “drag queens are not for kids” at the event, organised by Rainbow Families Queensland.

Jess Origliasso, one half of The Veronicas, shared footage of the incident on social media that night, sparking a firestorm of criticism of the actions of the UQ Liberal-National Club.

Gavin, president of the organisation – which was late last year disendorsed by the LNP in Queensland – died by suicide yesterday at 7am, barely 12 hours after the footage emerged.

One of his friends, who spoke to on the condition of anonymity out of fear of becoming a target themselves, detailed the backlash the 21-year-old endured.

Gavin was relentlessly trolled with vile insults and taunts, and, the friend claims, received some messages with an encouragement that he die.

Some members of his family, classmates and friends were tracked down and contacted, while his school, The University of Queensland, was publicly encouraged to kick him out.

His social media accounts were trawled through in a bid to find other indiscretions to build a fuller profile of the kind of person he was.

As another friend Drew Pavlou wrote in a public dedication, “away from the social media storms and headlines, he was at his core a very decent and kind person that cared for others”.

That didn’t seem to matter in the moment.

The Twitter mob responded so quickly and with such intensity that pausing to consider some of those other factors, like his young age or potential frame of mind, didn’t happen.

In many instances, it seems you’re either with the mob or against it.

This notion was explored in an article for The Conversation, jointly authored by Corinne May-Chahal and Adam Fish, lecturers in social sciences at Lancaster University.

In it, they described the rise of the Twitter mob as “a kind of public flogging for the 21st Century” but said social media hasn’t decentralisated communication into a level playing field as once thought.

“Instead it is becoming a tool for the re-establishment and re-enforcing of tribal groupings, and the monopolisation of debate by micro-celebrities who may or may not be deserving of serious attention,” May-Chahal and Fish wrote.

In some cases, the punishment decided on by the mob – which can often spiral wildly out of control – far outweighs the initial crime.

“As we put increasing faith in social media to solve social problems … we may want to reflect upon the supposed wisdom of the crowd,” they wrote.

When news of Gavin’s death broke yesterday, many of those who participated in the baying for his blood deleted their original posts.

In Memoriam: Professor Mike Adams, 1964-2020
By Robert Shibley

On Thursday, July 23, professor Mike Adams was found dead from a gunshot wound in his home in Wilmington, North Carolina. On Monday, his death was ruled a suicide.

Mike, a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina–Wilmington, was someone I first met early on in my time at FIRE. Formerly a liberal and atheist, he had converted to Christianity and become a conservative a few years before, and was a columnist and author with the zeal of the converted. Through his nearly two decades of on-and-off persecution by UNCW—and make no mistake, that’s what it was—he and I (along with others at FIRE) also became friends.

At this point in a post memorializing anyone controversial, it’s become customary to say something like “Of course, I didn’t agree with everything Mike said,” or somehow distance oneself from his perceived faults. I am not going to do that here. Maybe I agreed with every word he said, maybe I didn’t. It doesn’t matter. Despite what we have all been trained to pretend when speaking online these days, you can be friends with people with flaws, problems, and “wrong” opinions. We know this because this describes all of us, and all of our friends, and we have no obligation to be defensive about it. Plus, if you want criticism of Mike, you won’t have any trouble finding it. Just check out the comments on any story about his death for the ghoulish celebrations of his end, starting while his body was practically still warm. Or check out the media coverage of his death, the general attitude of which is summed up by Buzzfeed: “A Professor Who Was Known For His Racist, Misogynistic Tweets Was Found Dead In His Home.” Welcome to the world of the hit obituary.

One thing about Mike that probably has not received enough attention was his strong support for the fair treatment of students on his campus and elsewhere. The first state law guaranteeing students the right to counsel in campus disciplinary matters was passed in North Carolina in 2013 as a result of the procedural abuses aimed by UNCW (yep, them again) at the SAE fraternity chapter on campus. Mike’s help was invaluable in supporting that effort and other right-to-counsel laws, which you can read about in this 2018 article co-authored by Mike and fellow professor and due process stalwart KC Johnson of Brooklyn College. If your son or daughter ends up getting accused of some campus offense and actually has the right to hire an attorney or other advisor to stand with him or her at the hearing (a right that was vanishingly rare before 2013), Mike Adams deserves a share of the credit.

FIRE has written many thousands of words over the years about the value of free speech in a free society. But one aspect that is too often overlooked is how adherence to free speech ideals, both in law and culture, spares people the psychological damage that occurs when they are told that they are free to speak, and they see others with whom they disagree being free to speak, but they are in actuality forced to suppress their opinions for fear of losing something they value —their jobs, their education, sometimes even their liberty (the last, thankfully, still rare in America).

I don’t know if any psychological studies on this exist. (It’s hard to think of a way that conducting an experiment, for example, would be ethical.) Stories from behind the Iron Curtain certainly suggest that those in repressive societies struggled with it on a psychological level, and Orwell’s description of “doublethink” from 1984 is in many ways similar. But I don’t think a double-blind study is required for us to understand that feeling like the people around you are enjoying freedoms that you don’t get puts a lot of stress on a person. In fact, you could probably just ask your friends and neighbors how it makes them feel. A Cato/YouGov survey released less than two weeks ago revealed that “62% of Americans say they have political views they’re afraid to share,” with “strong liberals” the only ideological group in which a majority doesn’t feel that way—and even there, an alarming 42% still do. In fact, members of every group are more afraid to speak out than they were in 2017.

Many people are going to wear down under this constant, even if low-level, stress and fear (though it was certainly not low-level for Mike), and some will be driven to depression by it. It is also bound to exacerbate any already existing mental health problems, from which Mike, like so many other Americans, may have silently suffered. Add to that the mob demands that constitute the “cancellation”—demands literally intended to expose the target to other suicide risk factors including joblessness, social isolation, anxiety, etc.—and the entirely predictable result is that some number of the cancelled will take their own lives. Mike Adams appears to have been one of those people.

Does that mean that those who vilified Mike, demanded his firing, and otherwise participated in or egged on his “cancellation” didn’t have the legal right to do so? Not at all. Some, of course, may have been engaged in defamation or other unprotected speech, but the majority of those calling for his destruction, and rejoicing in its success, were within their rights to do it. And the lion’s share of responsibility has to attach to Chancellor Jose Sartarelli and the others at UNCW who, if history is any guide, were only too happy to finally have an excuse to end Mike’s career. (Sartarelli, for example, defended the decision to pay Mike an early retirement payout of around $505,000 on the basis that UNCW’s last, losing crusade against him had cost the university even more money. Truly, this was a profile in courage.) But having the right to do something doesn’t make it morally right.

Two Bad Ideas of the Morally (Self) Righteous
By Daniel Kaufman

The spectacle of moralizers being exposed as moral cretins themselves is something that everyone who remembers the televangelist scandals of the last several decades will be familiar with. Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard…, in each case it was discovered that a prominent person, who had spent a good portion of his career engaged in the aggressive moral condemnation of others, had been engaged all the while in terrible behavior himself. Today, this cadre of unpleasant, right-wing moral scolds has been joined by left-wing intellectuals from the Academy and particularly, self-styling progressive philosophers, most recently, Mark Alfano, a philosopher at the Delft University of Technology. Not only has Alfano started a petition to get a graduate student’s published paper on race and IQ retroactively removed from the journal, Philosophical Psychology, he has said that he is doing it in order to “ruin his reputation permanently and deservedly.” … One thing about Alfano that makes him eerily reminiscent of the Swaggarts and Haggards of the world is that morality and virtue are his big game, his primary areas of expertise and research, not to mention – and you really can’t make this sort of thing up – “epistemic humility,” research on which has landed him hundreds of thousands of dollars in Templeton grant money. …

What this suggests is that the tendency of moral (self) righteousness to coincide with some pretty awful personalities is deeply human, rather than something distinctive of a particular ideological viewpoint, and I wonder whether this in part explains the uncanny similarity between religious fundamentalists and woke progressives who on paper would seem to have nothing in common. But this comparison, interesting as it may be, is not my main focus. Rather, I want to explore two ideas that are ubiquitous among the morally (self) righteous, of whatever stripe, and which may somewhat explain why they behave so awfully so often.

The first is that the rightness of one’s cause justifies and even ennobles terrible behavior on one’s own part. Dr. Alfano surely knows that trying to ruin peoples’ reputations is a rotten thing to do, but because he purports to be doing so on behalf of anti-racism, it’s ok, even admirable. Rachel McKinnon cannot be unaware that cheering someone’s untimely, painful death is appalling behavior, but because she is doing it as part of a righteous struggle for trans rights – which is what McKinnon claimed she was doing after taking to social media to whoop it up over the death by brain cancer of a young, lesbian activist (Magdalen Berns), who was a vocal opponent of trans-activist politics and policy – it is not only acceptable, but a noble thing to do. After her initial Tweet that “It’s okay to celebrate, even to be happy, when bad people die” received considerable pushback even from those on her side of the issue, she went on to double down, writing “Don’t be the sort of person who people you’ve harmed are happy you’re dying of brain cancer.” …

The second – and it is intimately related to and entwined with the first – is that those whom the (self) righteous believe are Bad People deserve neither quarter nor pity. The idea isn’t just that The Bad deserve what they get, a kind of melancholic observation of what comes of bad Karma, but that we should put the boot in (especially when they are down) and should be brutal in doing it…and pitiless afterwards.

Moral Cruelty and the Left
By Blake Smith

Our sense that all human beings are endowed with moral worth that ought not to be degraded, especially by inflicting pain, appeared to Shklar, and to Nietzsche, as the product of our peculiar religious heritage. Shklar argued that Christianity had taught Western cultures to value compassion and feel with those who suffer—but only in an “ex-Christian” and secular society can these values become paramount. Fear of cruelty to human beings can only be the worst vice for people who no longer fear God but have been enduringly shaped by their historical encounter with religion.

The other key insight Shklar found in Nietzsche is that fear of “physical cruelty” can be transformed into “moral cruelty” by “deliberate and persistent humiliation, so that the victim can eventually trust neither himself nor anyone else.” Those who see themselves as fighting against physical cruelty, from Christian priests railing against the iniquities of the Roman Coliseum to their distant descendants, the social justice warriors of today, can inflict all kinds of psychological torment on their opponents—and themselves.

Nietzsche saw Christianity and the post-Christian ideologies of liberalism, socialism, etc. as mechanisms of humiliation by which people were made to feel guilty, sinful, and self-doubting. These moral systems associate every moral quality that might lead to physical cruelty—aggression, confidence, vitality—with evil. They pathologize strength and sanctify weakness. In this way they cripple and deform the psyches of the noblest sort of people, those who are overflowing with power and desire. At the same time they allow self-described victims to pursue cruel vengeances against their supposed oppressors. They preach masochism to the strong and sadism to the weak.

If one is really sensitive to cruelty, Nietzsche suggested, then one must reject the moral cruelty that lurks behind campaigns to eradicate physical cruelty. One must rescue people from the humiliation and loss of confidence that Christianity and its political heirs impose. Shklar took this paradox seriously. In a Nietzschean reading of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter, she analyzed the ways that Christianity, ostensibly opposed to cruelty, can lead believers to inflict suffering on others and themselves. A “humanitarianism unshaken by skepticism and unmindful of its limitations,” she concluded, can indeed be crueler than more obvious and brutal forms of violence it seeks to resist.

Shklar did not provide present-day examples of moral cruelty, preferring to stay with the safely nonpolitical example of a 19th-century allegory about 17th-century Puritans. We cannot afford such detachment. Everywhere around us, people are acting cruelly in the name of eradicating physical harm and arbitrary power. Anyone working in a university, cultural institution, or large corporation today has spent recent weeks reading emails, attending meetings, and participating in conversations that are theaters of moral cruelty. White people in such contexts are asked—or required—to admit that they are culpable, that they lack ethical and epistemic authority, that they must listen to and heed the demands of victims of racism. They humiliate themselves, literally kneeling in propitiation.

Shklar found such acts of self-debasement no less cruel and terrifying than the violence that they are supposedly meant to resist. Healthy minded people, she urged, do not want to suffer in this way—nor do they want to attain power and self-respect at the cost of presenting themselves as a “model of moral victimhood.” As she considered the self-torturing Puritans of Hawthorne’s novel, she acknowledged that Nietzsche was on to something in his diagnosis that Western modernity had learned “too well” how to fear physical cruelty and pity its victims: “towards others one felt only pity, because thanks to a humiliating religion everyone could identity instantly with suffering and victimhood.” The legacy of Christianity is a morally poisonous fear that makes decent people unable to respect themselves or resist demands made by victims.

Nietzsche’s solution, as Shklar described it, was to refuse moral cruelty and accept physical cruelty. Let victims suffer, let the weak perish, so that the strong can enjoy a clear conscience free of the lacerations of guilt. Shklar warned that the “megalomaniacs of interwar Europe,” Hitler and Stalin, learned this lesson from Nietzsche. There was, in her account, a clear line from his critique of moral cruelty to the totalitarian regimes that had destroyed the world of her childhood and nearly killed her. But this was not a reason to dismiss his critique. Defending liberal democracy, Shklar claimed, will require us to confront Nietzsche’s powerful argument against the moral cruelty that liberalism seems to generate from within its post-Christian heritage. Otherwise, intelligent people who refuse to reduce themselves to cringing sinners will turn to the Nietzscheanisms of the radical left and right. Liberals must not make decent people choose between liberalism and self-respect.

How the cruel moraliser uses a halo to disguise his horns
By Paul Russell

Moralisers present the facade of genuine moral concern but their real motivations rest with interests and satisfactions of a very different character. When these motivations are unmasked, they are shown to be tainted and considerably less attractive than we suppose. Among these motivations are cruelty, malice and sadism. Not all forms of moralism, however, are motivated in this way. On the contrary, it could be argued that the most familiar and common form of moralism is rooted not in cruelty but in vanity.

The basic idea behind vain moralism is that the agents’ (moral) conduct and conversation is motivated with a view to inflating their social and moral standing in the eyes of others. This is achieved by way of flaunting their moral virtues for others to praise and admire. Any number of moralists through the ages – reaching back to the likes of François de La Rochefoucauld (1613-80) and Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733) – have attempted to show that it is vanity that lies behind most, if not all, of our moral conduct and activity. While theories of this kind no doubt exaggerate and distort the truth, they do make sense of much of what troubles us about moralism.

One feature of vain moralism that is especially troubling is that an excessive or misplaced concern with our moral reputation and standing suggests that moralisers of this kind lack any deep or sincere commitment to the values, principles and ideals that they want others to believe animates their conduct and character. Moralisers of this kind are essentially superficial and fraudulent. We have, of course, countless examples of this sort of moral personality, ranging from Evangelical preachers caught in airport motels taking drugs with male prostitutes, to any number of highly paid professors wining and dining on the lecture circuit while explaining the need for social justice and advocating extreme forms of egalitarianism. For the most part, these characters and their activities – whatever their doctrine – are a matter of ridicule rather than of grave moral concern. Over time, the motivations behind their ‘grandstanding’ and ‘virtue signalling’ will be exposed for what it is, and the moralisers’ shallow commitment to their professed ideals and values becomes apparent to all. While we shouldn’t dismiss the vain moraliser as simply innocuous, there is no essential connection between moralism of this kind and cruelty or sadism.

The particular motivations behind vain moralism largely account for the cluster of vices associated with it. This includes hypocrisy, sanctimoniousness, pomposity, pretension and conformism. These vices are all evidence that vain moralism is at work. Cruel moralism involves a very different set of motivations and a different cluster of vices. Although vain moralisers might adopt cruel attitudes and practices if they serve their (vain and shallow) ends, there is no satisfaction or pleasure taken in the suffering and humiliation of others for its own sake. With cruel moralism, things are different. What gives cruel moralisers satisfaction is not enhancing their moral standing in the eyes of others but rather the suffering and humiliation of others as a means to achieve power and domination over them. Achieving this confirms the moralisers’ sense of superiority over others and provides further validation for their ideals and values. It is self-validation – not validation to others – that cruel moralisers care about and seek to confirm. Imposing suffering and humiliation on the guilty and morally flawed provides this validation, and this becomes a deep source of motivation in their own ethical conduct and responses. In the hands of the cruel moraliser, morality lends itself to misrepresentation and misuse, and is liable to become cruel and sadistic.

Just as the motivation of the cruel moraliser is very different from that of the vain moraliser, so too is the principal set of vices associated with it. What comes with cruel moralism are vices such as severity, vindictiveness, dogmatism and authoritarianism. Cruel moralisers take a stance of excessive confidence and self-assertion, where this confirms their power and domination over the guilty or sinful. This might well be a pose that masks insecurities and doubts but it serves to sustain and support the cruel moralisers’ need to confirm their own moral standing and significance in the moral order. It is this need that demands satisfaction, and causing suffering and humiliation through the instrument of morality is the means by which it’s achieved.

When we think about cruel moralism, what sort of examples come to mind? What’s likely to come to most people’s mind are examples of largescale world-historical events involving public ‘show trials’ of some kind. This might cover the ideological and historical range, running from the trial of Socrates or the crucifixion of Christ, to the Spanish Inquisition, to the ‘Tribunals’ of the French Revolution, and on to the farce of the Moscow show trials in the 1930s, the Nazis’ ‘People’s Court’, the McCarthy hearings in the US senate in the 1950s, and the countless public humiliations and cruelties of the Chinese ‘Cultural Revolution’ during the 1960s. It might also include the endless public humiliations and bullying of atheists, adulterers and homosexuals and other such ‘miscreants’ – forms of cruelty inflicted by the (apparently) morally motivated that continue to this day all around the globe.

There are certainly important features of cruel moralism at work in all these examples. A parading of the accused before judges and the uncritical mob; their various faults and vices reviewed and described; and harsh penalties and sanctions meted out on this basis. The use and abuse of morality to satisfy the sadistic cravings of those involved and their audience is evident in all these cases.

A casual review of history shows that moralism and moralisers find a natural home in religion and political movements and ideologies that encourage moral optimism and utopian hopes. Those who fail the standards and ideals in question are a particular source of disappointment and frustration for those who are devoted to them. The further irony of this dynamic is that those ideologies and movements that promise perfection and utopia are themselves especially prone to forms of moral cruelty and sadism. Their adherents, of whatever stripe or orientation, find particular satisfaction in the humiliation and suffering of their opponents, whom they perceive as ‘moral enemies’. The suffering of their ‘enemies’ offers them further evidence of their domination, superiority and hopes for a perfect future. Religions and political movements that are founded on a gospel of love and justice rank among the most frequent and flagrant practitioners of draconian, authoritarian and dogmatic policies and practices – all of which is well-concealed in the language of their higher and nobler ideals and motivations.

This disposition to moral idealism and utopian goals is itself closely allied with a Manichean world view that divides the moral community into the good and the evil, the innocent and the guilty, victims and oppressors, exploited and exploiters, friends and enemies, saints and sinners, and so on. This becomes another dynamic for cruel moralism. Moral practitioners who live in a world that is ethically polarised in this way are especially vulnerable to the satisfactions of cruel moralism. A world governed by such simple and crude moral divisions and polarities is one where it becomes easy to lose all sympathetic feeling and affinity for those who fall on the wrong side of the divide. Whatever restraints and moderation might be encouraged by kinder motivations will be lost, and the pleasures of watching the wicked suffer will be amplified. In many religions, this becomes part of an ‘inspiring’ picture of our moral future – a form of moral sickness that has worked its way deeply into those political ideologies that developed out of them (including ideologies that claim to have repudiated their own religious sources and origins).

While there is no simple or easy cure for any form of moralism, there are, nevertheless, means and methods available for curtailing and curbing its influence. We might begin, for example, by encouraging those forms of moral education and development that promote virtues that oppose and limit moral cruelty and sadism. The most obvious of these are kindness and sympathy – both of which tend to promote forms of forgiveness that facilitate reconciliation rather than retribution. At the level of our political and social institutions, liberal-democratic structures promote forms of transparency and accountability that make it more difficult for moralisers to mask and conceal their motivations – including cruelty – as ethically legitimate. At the cultural level, every form of art can be marshalled to expose the forms of concealment and corruption that cruel moralism involves. To cite just one example, many of the paintings and etchings by Francisco Goya (1746-1828) – such as There Was No Remedy (1797-98) – present a powerful exposé of the dark motivations and practices of cruel moralism and invite us to sympathise with the fate of its victims.

Finally, we might also turn to the comedian. Suffice it to say that both cruel and vain moralisers alike particularly fear having their motivations exposed this way, through ridicule and mockery. This explains why the vice of earnest humourlessness – and the various forms of suppression that go with it – is another common feature of their personalities and style.

While steps can be taken to curb and curtail cruel moralism, there are powerful forces working against this. Technology, in the form of the internet and social media, now provides a massive platform for the spread and reach of pernicious moralism and moralisers. It might well be true that vain moralism particularly thrives in this environment, given that every morally outraged Facebook and blog contributor is provided with a bottomless source of support for their moral vanity and the numerous validating pleasures that go with it (eg, the number of ‘likes’ that they receive, etc). However, we shouldn’t underestimate these platforms as a venue for the cruel moraliser. Many of the most cruel and cutting posts, as directed at those who are found to fail in some moral dimension or other, are entirely anonymous. Clearly there is no vanity being fed here, since there is no name or person attached to the post. There is only the simple pleasure and satisfaction of watching someone else, a transgressor of some kind, suffer and be humiliated in a manner from which the anonymous contributor receives some sadistic satisfaction. The internet has provided this human propensity with a massive platform, all of which serves as clear evidence of the power and attractions of cruel moralism.

It might be said that there is an (obvious) irony involved in writing about and condemning moralism, and we should, no doubt, be conscious of this. Among other things, if we are too quick to condemn moralism and moralisers, we might cease to take morality itself seriously enough. That will happen, however, only if we fail to distinguish moralism and morality and the different motivations that are at play. Perhaps the deeper irony here is that if we take morality seriously, as we must, then we have good reason to take moralism – especially in its cruellest forms – very seriously. The fundamental irony, inherent in the human predicament, is that morality is itself both an occasion and instrument for many of the most severe and cruel forms of immorality.

The Newest Way a Narcissist May Try to Manipulate You
By Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.

Considering all the ways that people can be harmed by unfair or even mistreatment, there is reason to believe that when people describe themselves as having suffered as a result, they’re telling the truth. However, what about people who aren’t? What are the qualities that lead them to skate the unethical thin ice of taking advantage of a bad situation?

According to new research by the University of British Columbia’s Ekin Ok and colleagues (2020), there are indeed fake “virtuous victims” who take advantage of the “resource extraction” strategies used by actual victims who deserve those resources. These self-proclaimed victims realize that they can make unreasonable demands of others, and not have to answer for their inexcusable behavior. This process of signaling their status allows them, in the words of the authors, to “convince nonvictims to willingly provision the alleged victim with resources” … .

As an example, the UBC researchers cite the astounding statistics reported by an insurance fraud organization’s data showing that billions of dollars are lost each year from fraudulent claims not only to insurance companies but also to government aid agencies and even charitable organizations. Like your acquaintance, these people find ways to exploit the resources needed by actual victims, whose chances for fair settlements could be lowered when the available funds are usurped by the dishonest.

As you might imagine, the people who take advantage of false victimhood status are hardly reputable individuals. Ok et al. propose that their underlying personalities reflect the so-called ”Dark Triad” traits of psychopathy (lack of empathy and morals), Machiavellianism (tendency to exploit others), and narcissism (grandiosity and self-promotion). These individuals “guilelessly deploy a range of manipulative strategies for personal gain” through what the authors refer to as “victim signaling” … .

What’s important to understand about the theoretical background behind the idea of false victims is that these are not actual victims of anything. To convince other people of what they “deserve,” they need to portray themselves as honest, trustworthy, and highly moral because otherwise, you would see right through them (hence the term “virtuous victim”). Those high in the Dark Triad traits combine the signals that they’re victims with signals that they’re virtuous and do so in a callous and manipulative manner.

The Anonymous Professor Who Wasn’t
By Jonah Engel Bromwich and Ezra Marcus

An anonymous anthropology professor remained outspoken about fairness in academia even as she suffered for months with coronavirus.

“This person was a scientist who got Covid because they’d been forced to teach,” said Michael Eisen, a fly geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, who had interacted on Twitter with the professor for years. “It wasn’t the first person I knew who got Covid — but for a lot of people it was one of the first people they knew who got it.”

He said that he had continued to exchange messages with the person running the account through June and that this person frequently discussed a difficult recovery.

Then BethAnn McLaughlin, another Twitter connection, announced on July 31 that the anonymous professor had died from complications of the virus.

Just a few days later, both the account of the anonymous professor and of Ms. McLaughlin were suspended for Twitter policies that, among other things, bar the coordination of fake accounts.

The anonymous account, @Sciencing_Bi, was an active participant in the corner of Science Twitter that frequently discusses issues of sexual misconduct in the sciences. It claimed on at least one occasion to have grown up in Alabama, to have “fled the south because of their oppression of queer folk,” and to have attended Catholic school. The account began to pointedly make reference to being Native American and, earlier this year, began to identify as Hopi.

Since 2016, it has posted often about issues around social justice in the sciences, with a focus on activism and research about sexual harassment.

It was also active in the career of Ms. McLaughlin, a neuroscientist. (News of the relationship between the Twitter accounts was reported by, Science and the Chronicle of Higher Education.) It was key in promoting a petition that called for Ms. McLaughlin to be given tenure at Vanderbilt University. She was not given tenure in 2017, a decision she said was influenced by her having testified against a former Vanderbilt professor accused of sexual harassment. Her effort to reverse that decision was unsuccessful in 2019, and she left the university that summer.

On one occasion, the account responded to someone asking Ms. McLaughlin for information about Vanderbilt with extensive details about the university’s salary structure.

In April, @Sciencing_Bi began to undergo a drama that belonged solely to her, announcing the coronavirus diagnosis in a tweet. It was Ms. McLaughlin who announced that the anonymous professor had died.

“I was pretty shocked,” said Erica Smith, a postdoctoral researcher at Indiana University. “I had never had particularly great experiences with @Sciencing_Bi, but I thought that she was a whole real human who had just died. I was surprised by how hard it hit me. I ate a pint of ice cream about it.”

Ms. McLaughlin came across as particularly distraught. She mourned @Sciencing_Bi in a long thread, paying testament to her humanity and toughness.

“She was supposed to get Hopi talisman for health as gifts for us but she ran out,” Ms. McLaughlin tweeted. “God. The irony of running out of health talisman.” She also said that she and the person behind the account had been planning on getting matching tattoos in the Hopi language.

Ms. McLaughlin has prompted particular frustration and disgust by posing as a Hopi woman, right as the coronavirus has caused disproportionate harm to Indigenous communities in the United States.

Ms. McLaughlin first began to make waves among those concerned about sexual harassment in the sciences in May 2018. She wrote and circulated a petition that month calling for the National Academy of Sciences to revoke the membership of those who had been punished for sexual harassment, retaliation and assault.

In June 2018, she and Ms. Libarkin started a website, MeTooSTEM, which quickly garnered attention, as women posted a series of largely anonymous stories there about being harassed while working in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

In the same month, Ms. McLaughlin further raised her profile when she used Twitter to successfully pressure the website to drop its system of chili peppers used to rank the “hotness” of academics.

In October 2018, Ms. McLaughlin, who had begun to make decisions for the organization without informing her colleagues, created a fund-raiser for MeTooSTEM on GoFundMe. It eventually raised more than $79,000.

Ms. McLaughlin’s colleagues at MeTooSTEM were already feeling uncomfortable with her leadership at that point, and were made particularly uneasy by the GoFundMe.

“We were about to get in front of a crowd of people and say: ‘Give us your money,’” said Ms. Smith. She didn’t know how the money would be used, but did remember thinking: “We’re too broke to participate in white-collar crime.”

Former colleagues of Ms. McLaughlin at MeTooSTEM said they did not know where that money ultimately went. A 2019 report from MeTooSTEM said that the money, along with other donations, had “provided free services for 18 months to over 500 clients.”

The Double Horseshoe Theory of Class Politics
By Michael Lind

The goal of so-called progressivism in 2020s America is to expand employment opportunities for college-educated, center-left professionals, while adding new wings to the welfare state that are tailored to their personal needs. The slogan “Defund the police” is interpreted by the bourgeois professional left to mean transferring tax revenues from police officers, who are mostly unionized but not college-educated, to social service and nonprofit professionals, who are mostly college-educated but not unionized. The enactment of proposals for free college education and college debt forgiveness would disproportionately benefit the professional bourgeoisie, not the working class majority whose education ends with high school. Likewise, public funding for universal day-care allows both parties in a two-earner professional couple to maximize their individual incomes and individual career achievements by outsourcing the care of their children to a mostly-female, less well-paid workforce at taxpayer expense.

It is no coincidence that many professionals in the sectors most dependent on their funding on donations from the capricious rich, like philanthropy, colleges and universities, and the media, hate billionaires with the passionate resentment that is reserved for benefactors. In their view, in a just society, the arts program or the NGO would be permanently funded by tax revenues, instead of annual fund-raising appeals to this or that plutocrat’s personal fortune or foundation.

Gore Vidal was known to say that America has socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor. Contemporary American progressivism can be succinctly described as social democracy for the professional class.

While the professional bourgeoisie, based in the public sector, universities and nonprofits, is the social base of progressivism, the social base of conservatism is the small business bourgeoisie, particularly those in this group who are native, white and suburban or exurban, as opposed to immigrants who run small businesses. Like the professional bourgeoisie, the proprietarian bourgeoisie wants to enlist the power of the state to protect its members from proletarianization.

To avoid being squeezed out of existence between big business and organized labor, the small business bourgeoisie has fought for generations on two fronts, demanding subsidies and exemptions from government regulations, while insisting on anti-union and anti-labor legislation and a reliable supply of cheap labor (preferably guest workers or illegal immigrants who cannot vote). The lobbies for the small business sector naturally oppose any “decommodifying” social insurance reforms. Examples are longer periods for unemployment insurance or universal health care, each of which can increase the bargaining power even of non-unionized workers by allowing them to hold out longer until employers are forced to make better offers.

In addition to clarifying the constituencies and goals of contemporary American political factions, the double horseshoe theory helps explains what might be called “the two reopenings” during the COVID-19 pandemic, between March 2020 and July 2020.

The protests associated with the first reopening were led during the early stages of the lockdown by conservative members of the small business bourgeoisie. Many of their undercapitalized storefront businesses, like hair salons, and restaurants, and car repair shops, were threatened or wiped out by city and state shut-down orders. The protests were dominated by petty-bourgeois business owners, and not their low-paid employees—some of whom might have been endangered by a premature return to their workplaces during the pandemic.

The initial response of the progressive professional bourgeoisie was to ridicule and denounce the right-wingers for endangering their own lives and those of others by ignoring the advice of credentialed public health experts.

Then, during the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, the same progressive professional bourgeoisie concluded that systemic racism was a greater threat to public health than COVID-19, which—mirabile dictu!cannot be spread at left-wing demonstrations.

I am not the first to observe that what were initially legitimate protests against the use of excess force and racism by particular police departments have turned into a campaign for greater funding for social-services jobs and diversity officer jobs for members of the professional bourgeoisie in their twenties and thirties.

I’m leaving Sleeping Giants, but not because I want to
By Nandini Jammi

Sleeping Giants quickly became popular because we brought good news everyday. Each day, advertisers would drop Breitbart or some other horror show. Best of all, anyone could participate.

Together, we built a community of 400,000+ followers, who helped us lose Breitbart 90% of its ad revenues, put Bill O’Reilly out of a job and deplatform hate figures like Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos.

Behind that magical flow of daily wins? I was working behind the scenes to identify which advertisers needed an extra push. I was creating actions for our Facebook community: first testing email addresses privately, then writing email templates for our followers to send. This became a core tactic that helped us move fast.

My work got Facebook VP Carolyn Everson on the record for the first time in 2017 about their partnership with Breitbart. I masterminded the strategy that resulted in Robert Mercer stepping down as co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies.

And I never expected or desired credit for any of it. This was all a truly inspiring experience. It was a collective environment where the stakes were high and all that mattered were the results.

Was I just here performing free labor in service of a white man’s personal brand? I went rogue. I posted a passive aggressive note on his Instagram — and then I did what I wasn’t supposed to: take a press request.

After I spoke to the New York Times reporter, Matt called me, furious that I had dared to shade him on Instagram. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, and I remember what he said perfectly:

  1. “This is a betrayal. This is worse than anything that Breitbart could do. This is worse than being doxxed by The Daily Caller.”
  2. “I’m older than you and I know more people than you. I’ve been working for like 20 years, and I used to work at an ad agency. I’m sorry you’re not getting the jobs you want. I’m sorry you don’t have the connections I have.”
  3. “You’re such a pain in the ass. Every three months, like clockwork, you call me wanting something. No one does this to me, not my wife, not my business partner, not my friends.”
  4. “Everything I do is for the movement. What about you? You’re in it for the glory aren’t you?”
  5. “I did not deserve what you did to me. The way you chewed me out in front of all my friends. They were all saw what you said, they were all asking who this person is saying these things about me.”
  6. “I took a huge risk just by starting this account and I do a million things you don’t even know about.”

He told me he didn’t know if he could trust me again. When I asked him why he couldn’t just tell me about Cannes, I will never forget what he said: “I don’t owe you anything.”

2012 Is Bullshit; 2020 Is When We’ll Really Be in Trouble
By Jamie Clifton

VICE: Can you humor me and explain your cliodynamic theory of violence in layman’s terms?
Peter Turchin:
Sure. Historical studies show that society goes through long-term cycles of violence: There’s a build-up for roughly a century, then a period of violence, or upheaval, for ten or 15 years. Then people get tired of it and the next generation goes back to being peaceful. It’s then the grandchildren of that generation—who never experienced the severity of upheaval firsthand—who are likely to start causing problems again. My theory suggests that it will be 2020 when the US hits a new peak of violence.

In your view, what causes these upheavals?
Historically, the trouble has always come from people with power, and the number of those people who want the most power. There are too many political entrepreneurs who are all trying to get power, and they get frustrated, which is how revolutions start: when members of the elite try to overturn the political order to better suit themselves.

The Strange Disappearance of Cooperation in America
By Peter Turchin

You may think that political polarization is not so bad. What’s wrong with different political parties holding strong opinions about how this country should be governed? The problem is, the clash of ideas inevitably leads to the clash of personalities. As political positions become separated by a deep ideological gulf the capacity for compromise disappears and political leaders become increasingly intransigent. The end result is political gridlock, something that became abundantly clear in the last few years, but has been developing over the last few decades.

How a 1990s book predicted 2020
By Ed West

Lasch also saw that the eroding of a common culture, values and standards, which was the major legacy of 60s cultural radicalism, ended up creating a gulf between social classes. If there were no common values to hold people together, what was to stop the rich and powerful trampling over the rest of society, cloaking their self-interest in furious self-righteousness?

And so it has come to pass, with the rise of woke capital, an amoral business model in which CEOs make thousands of times more than their lowest earners, all the while distracting attention with support for therapeutic but increasingly extreme politics.

Although not a Marxist, Lasch saw politics through the prism of class, arguing that elites of both Left and Right had the same economic interests. “Even when they disagree about everything else,” he argued, they “have a common stake in suppressing a politics of class.”

Indeed, the fashionable social causes of the 21st century not only ignore class, but actually further increase hostility to the poor. Evidence suggests that thinking about “white privilege” reduces sympathy for people struggling in poverty, while the association of bigotry with the non-college educated has normalised snobbery to an almost pre-modern degree. People once might have sneered at less educated people, but they would have done so privately at least; now comedy routinely makes the less educated and less geographically connected its punchline.

“The culture wars that have convulsed America since the sixties are best understood as a form of class warfare,” he wrote: “in which an enlightened elite (as it thinks of itself) seeks not so much to impose its values on the majority (a majority perceived as incorrigibly racist, sexist, provincial, and xenophobic), much less to persuade the majority by means of rational public debate.”

The Pessimistic Style in American Politics
By Thomas Frank

“Populism” is the word that comes to the lips of the respectable and the highly educated when they perceive the global system going haywire. Populism is the name they give to the avalanche crashing down on the Alpine wonderland of Davos. Populism is what they call the mutiny that may well turn the supercarrier America into a foundering wreck. Populism, for them, is a one-word evocation of the logic of the mob: it is the people as a great rampaging beast.

What has happened, the thinkers of Beltway and C-suite tell us, is that the common folk have declared independence from the experts and, along the way, from reality itself. And so they the learned must come together to rescue civilization: political scientists, policy wonks, economists, technologists, CEOs, joining as one to save our social order. To save it from populism.

This struggle has a fundamental, almost biblical flavor. It is a battle of order against chaos, education against ignorance, mind against appetite, enlightenment against bigotry, culture against barbarism. From TED talk to red carpet, the call rings forth: Democracy must be controlled . . . before it ruins our democratic way of life.

From the very beginning … “populism” had two meanings. There was Populism as its proponents understood it: a movement in which ordinary working people demanded democratic economic reforms. And there was Populism as its enemies characterized it: a dangerous movement of groundless resentment in which demagogues led the disreputable.

The specific reforms for which the People’s Party campaigned are largely forgotten today, but the insults and accusations with which Populism was received in 1891 are alive and well. You can read them in best-selling books, watch them flashed on PowerPoints at prestigious foundation conferences, hear the long-ago denunciations of the Kansas City Star and the Topeka Daily Capital echoed by people who have never heard of Topeka: Populist movements, they will tell you, are mob actions; reformers are bigots; their leaders are blatherskites; their followers are mentally ill, or ignorant, or uncouth at the very least. They are cranks; they are troublemakers; they are deplorables. And, yes, they still have hayseed in their hair.

The name I give to this disdainful reaction is “anti-populism,” and when you investigate its history, you find its adherents using the same rhetoric over and over again. Whether defending the gold standard in 1896 or NAFTA in 2016, anti-populism mobilizes the same sentiments and draws on the same stereotypes; it sometimes even speaks to us from the same prestigious institutions. Its most toxic ingredient—a highbrow contempt for ordinary Americans—is as virulent today as it was in the Victorian era.

The populist impulse has been a presence in American life since the country’s beginning. Populism triumphed in the 1930s and 1940s, when the people overwhelmingly endorsed a regulatory welfare state. Populist uprisings occur all the time in the United States, always against the same enemies—monopolies, banks, elites, and corruption—and always with the same type of salt-of-the-earth heroes. The most obvious embodiment of the populist tradition today is certainly the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, whose principal likes to describe it as a “grassroots movement” rising up against the nation’s grotesque economic inequality.

To be clear, I believe that President Trump richly deserves nearly any criticism he gets. He is not really a populist, and I have no intention of building sympathy for him. But the danger of anti-populism is that it goes far beyond objecting to one vile politician. This was demonstrated in March as the anti-populist establishment came together to pummel the campaign of Bernie Sanders. Whatever its target, anti-populism is always a brief for elite and even aristocratic power, an attack on the democratic tradition itself. That is ultimately what’s in the crosshairs when commentators tell us that populism is a “threat to liberal democracy”; when they announce that populism “is almost inherently antidemocratic”; when they declare that “all people of goodwill must come together to defend liberal democracy from the populist threat.”

These are strong, urgent statements, obviously intended to frighten us away from a particular set of views. Millions of foundation dollars have been invested to put scary pronouncements like these before the public. Media outlets have incorporated them into the thought feeds of the world. Just as in 1896, such ideas are everywhere now: your daily newspaper, if your town still has one, almost certainly throws the word “populist” at racist demagogues and pro-labor liberals alike.

The larger message of anti-populism, regardless of where it comes from on the political spectrum, is always one of complacency. Elites rule us because elites should rule us. They are in charge because they are the best.

Intra-Elite Competition: A Key Concept for Understanding the Dynamics of Complex Societies
By Peter Turchin

Elites are a small proportion of the population (on the order of 1 percent) who concentrate social power in their hands (see my previous post and especially its discussion in the comments that reveal the complex dimensions of this concept). In the United States, for example, they include (but are not limited to) elected politicians, top civil service bureaucrats, and the owners and managers of Fortune 500 companies (see Who Rules America?). As individual elites retire, they are replaced from the pool of elite aspirants. There are always more elite aspirants than positions for them to occupy. Intra-elite competition is the process that sorts aspirants into successful elites and aspirants whose ambition to enter the elite ranks is frustrated. Competition among the elites occurs on multiple levels. Thus, lower-ranked elites (for example, state representatives) may also be aspirants for the next level (e.g., U.S. Congress), and so on, all the way up to POTUS.

Moderate intra-elite competition need not be harmful to an orderly and efficient functioning of the society; in fact, it’s usually beneficial because it results in better-qualified candidates being selected. Additionally, competition can help weed out incompetent or corrupt office-holders. However, it is important to keep in mind that the social effects of elite competition depend critically on the norms and institutions that regulate it and channel it into such societally productive forms.

Excessive elite competition, on the other hand, results in increasing social and political instability. The supply of power positions in a society is relatively, or even absolutely, inelastic. For example, there are only 435 U.S. Representatives, 100 Senators, and one President. A great expansion in the numbers of elite aspirants means that increasingly large numbers of them are frustrated, and some of those, the more ambitious and ruthless ones, turn into counter-elites. In other words, masses of frustrated elite aspirants become breeding grounds for radical groups and revolutionary movements.

Another consequence of excessive competition among elite aspirants is its effect on the social norms regulating politically acceptable conduct. Norms are effective only as long as the majority follows them, and violators are punished. Maintaining such norms is the job for the elites themselves.

Intense intra-elite competition, however, leads to the rise of rival power networks, which increasingly subvert the rules of political engagement to get ahead of the opposition. Instead of competing on their own merits, or the merits of their political platforms, candidates increasingly rely on “dirty tricks” such as character assassination (and, in historical cases, literal assassination). As a result, excessive competition results in the unraveling of prosocial, cooperative norms (this is a general phenomenon that is not limited to political life).

There are two main “pumps” producing aspirants for elite positions in America: education and wealth. On the education side, of particular importance are the law degree (for a political career) and the MBA (to climb the corporate ladder). Over the past four decades, according to the American Bar Association, the number of lawyers tripled from 400,000 to 1.2 million. The number of MBAs conferred by business schools over the same period grew six-fold (details in Ages of Discord).

On the wealth side we see a similar expansion of numbers, driven by growing inequality of income and wealth over the last 40 years. The proverbial “1 percent” becomes “2 percent”, then “3 percent”… For example, today there are five times as many households with wealth exceeding $10 million (in 1995 dollars), compared to 1980. Some of these wealth-holders give money to candidates, but others choose to run for political office themselves.

Elite overproduction in the US has already driven up the intensity of intra-elite competition. A reasonable proxy for escalating political competition here is the total cost of election for congressional races, which has grown (in inflation-adjusted dollars) from $2.4 billion in 1998 to $4.3 billion in 2016 (Center for Responsive Politics). Another clear sign is the unraveling of social norms regulating political discourse and process that has become glaringly obvious during the 2016 presidential election.

Analysis of past societies indicates that, if intra-elite competition is allowed to escalate, it will increasingly take more violent forms. A typical outcome of this process is a massive outbreak of political violence, often ending in a state collapse, a revolution, or a civil war (or all of the above).

The violence in American cities reflects the fury of polarisation
By The Economist

Over the past 60 years America’s political parties have not only grown further apart racially; they have also become angrier at each other. In “American Rage”, a forthcoming book on the subject, Steven Webster, a political scientist at Indiana University, finds that Americans’ ratings of the opposing party have dropped by roughly 40% since 1960, from an average of 50 to 30 out of 100. Party identification is not only a product of positive association with one side of the aisle, Mr Webster argues, but also a statement of negativity towards the other. He theorises that voters have been baited by the media and political leaders to view the other side as fundamental threats to their livelihood; as a group to be detested, not to work with.

Crucially, Mr Webster finds that both parties have their fair share of angry voters. Some in unsavoury corners of the right shout for “law and order”; anger on the left spills into rioting and looting. And he argues that this anger is a fundamental threat to the American government. Mr Webster says that when people shift from being emotionally angry (eg, in response to a police shooting) to being habitually so (eg, routinely demonstrating violently against the state) they “lose trust in the national government, lose their commitment to democratic norms and values and weaken in their commitment to minority rights. They think people who disagree with them politically are a threat to the country’s well-being.”

In short, the racial anger manipulated by Nixon and Mr Trump is not just a political tool, but also damaging to the country. So too is the anger among some Democrats towards the police. Mr Webster says that the short-term capitalisation of Republicans on the fury of angry whites is a long-standing political strategy, “but this time we might also find a manipulation of the protesters by the left.” Elite Democrats are likely to tell supporters they ought to be angry at police brutality, they ought to be angry at systemic racism and that they ought to be angry at the president. Why? “Because an angry voter is a loyal voter,” says Mr Webster. He finds that 30-40% of voters who feel angry some or all of the time are so-called “negative partisans”—the ones who view the other party as threats to the country and unworthy of their votes. In contrast, the majority of voters who rarely or never feel angry are much more co-operative.

The Summer Of Menace
By Andrew Sullivan

I wrote about the Flagellants in the essay—a new group of fanatical, radical penitents who challenged and mocked the church authorities during the Black Death, whipping themselves bloody in large crowds across Germany, calling everyone to account for their sins. It’s the same dynamic now: a movement to use a plague to cleanse ourselves of the past and indict the entire community for its iniquity. Perhaps more analogous are the Lollards in England, who formed a deeply anti-clerical, Biblically-based, spiritually-focused movement in the wake of the Black Death that presaged the Reformation to come. These movements and the current wave of revolt share a combination of intense zeal and transformational ambition. They also share an economic and social context: a hefty section of the society is dislocated and anxious, work is unavailable, the future is highly uncertain, poverty is spreading, and criminality and violence in our cities are rising.

This, in turn, can alienate many equally stressed out law-abiding citizens, who are just as vulnerable, but haven’t yet joined the cult. Revolts, if they seem to go too far, can summon up a classic 1968-style backlash. Victims of a new crime wave can argue back. The older generation may see the destruction of monuments and statues from the past a step too far. Visceral responses to scenes of violence and mayhem can rally the mainstream against change. Plagues, remember, are not unifying events; they often split the seams of societies, and the longer they go on, the deeper the divides and the greater the mayhem. In a society as deeply tribalized as ours, zeal cuts both ways, as we’re beginning to see in right-wing media.

All of which is a highly combustible situation, bristling with menace. What Trump has been doing since the Mount Rushmore speech—stupidly dismissed by woke media—is to try and cast this election as a battle between anarchy and the forces of law and order, between a radical dystopia laced with violence and the America we know. He’s trying to jujitsu the plague-fueled revolt into a winning campaign issue. He can’t exactly run on his record of double digit unemployment and an epidemic raging out of control. So this is his instinct. And politically, it’s not a bad one. In an environment where people are afraid and uncertain, authoritarianism has an edge. The more some cities descend into lawlessness and violence this summer, the edgier, and more popular, that performative authoritarianism could get.

Sending armed federal agents to cities against the wishes of state authorities is bound to inflame the situation further, as we’ve seen in Portland. Federal agents arresting people without probable cause of any crime—as appears to have happened—is an obvious abuse of power. Blowing past the much-touted Tenth Amendment is not exactly in line with any conservative principles. And deploying these troops for a made-for-television drama to bolster Trump’s campaign is another reason this man needs to be defeated this November.

But it’s nonetheless also the case that most of Trump’s initiative is narrowly tailored to be (just) within the letter of the law, if not its spirit. And the core reason for the deployment—ongoing vandalism and destruction of federal buildings like the Court House assaulted by protestors in Portland—is a defensible one. It’s also true that in several major cities, violent crime has been surging both before and after the BLM protests, as the police have suffered a drop in morale and as retirements are way up. Shooting incidents were up 56 percent in Milwaukee over last year’s totals earlier this month, and up 54 percent in Philadelphia. Chicago’s homicides are up 39 percent— which may explain why the overwhelmed Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, agreed to accept federal help this week—without allowing direct federal law enforcement on the streets. In New York City, there were 205 shooting incidents in June, a figure last seen in 1996, a quarter century ago. I keep seeing videos of mayhem in the streets there. It’s hard to judge how typical or atypical these scenes are—but you can be sure you’ll be seeing a lot of them on Fox News night after night, and showing up in your FaceBook and Twitter feeds 24/7.

And it’s worth remembering that most of the lives being lost here in this national wave of gun violence belong to African Americans. In one particular incident in DC, when an eleven-year-old boy was shot dead at a July 4th “Stop-The-Violence” cookout, his grandfather spoke for many who don’t get much of a hearing in the current moment: “We see all these protests only when an officer hurts a black person. Where are the Black Lives Matter people when black people are hurting black people?” BLM does care about such murders, of course, but the anger here is real. So is the human carnage.

In this context, “defunding the police” is not always good politics. And some white swing voters leaning toward Biden may become, if this continues or intensifies, less worried about Trump than this human toll. I should add that I think that so far, the BLM protestors have been able to shut down most of the worst violence and looting and murder, and have thereby kept the moral high ground. And Biden has also been shrewd in not taking any anti-police bait. But these situations are dynamic. They escalate easily. There is no real control of the rhetoric of extremists. And plagues stir everything up.

A Plague Is an Apocalypse. But It Can Bring a New World.
By Andrew Sullivan

Reminding humans of our mortality, plagues throw up existential questions that can lead to deep cultural shifts. As the first plagues hit Rome, for example, Christians were often blamed, and the cult of Apollo reemerged. But as the viral and bacterial hits kept coming, these plagues proved to be a tipping point in the move from the old gods to a new one. Christianity showed itself able to assuage the existential angst of constant death in a way the old religions couldn’t. Better still, it contained, as Harper notes, a socially useful network “among perfect strangers based on an ethic of sacrificial love.” And the Christian willingness to tend to the sick, even in a plague, impressed others. The plague seemed to force Roman society to shake off old patterns, like paganism, and seek new ones, like Christianity.

Centuries later, the Native Americans, similarly, saw smallpox as they saw most terrible events: through the prism of their gods and cosmologies. And as the unimaginable toll mounted, and the invaders seemed spared from the worst, many began to see the disease as some kind of proof of their own iniquity or to believe their gods had forsaken them. Their healing ceremonies and rituals, which sometimes included saunas followed by plunges into icy water, failed again and again. In his masterpiece, Plagues and Peoples, William H. McNeill poignantly notes reports of unprecedented suicides in their ranks and even the abandonment of newborns, as Native Americans lost faith in their own civilization and gods.

And plagues drive people crazy. You might call them mass-disinhibiting events. It’s not hard to see why. When the plague returned to a fast repopulating Europe in the 14th century, in the Great Mortality known as the Black Death, up to 60 percent of Europeans perished in an astonishingly short amount of time. When normal life has been completely suspended, and when you don’t know if you’ll be alive or dead in a week’s time, people act out.

In some ways, in fact, the gay-rights movement of the 1990s and 2000s is best understood as a subplot in the narrative of plague. It sounded crazy to talk of marriage equality in 1989, but plagues, as I’ve noted, make people crazy. The psychological strain, the fear, the anxiety: They build and build until people give themselves permission to scream, to protest, to re-create or reinvent religion, to express themselves fearlessly in public, to reorder the whole.

The extraordinary and near-spontaneous mass gatherings to protest police violence against Black people this year, I suspect, are rooted in this same human need. Untethered from normal routines, indeed from work itself, and shut inside with almost no human contact for months, people needed to vent, to transcend the moment and be with one another. The spark, the killing of George Floyd, was not exactly plague related, but, as sometimes in history, disinhibited feelings of very different kinds can still merge into a collective spasm. And in this plague, Black people have been disproportionately hit everywhere, in large part the result of the familiar burdens of entrenched poverty and discrimination. It seemed to make some kind of sense, in a world remade by plague, to tackle this injustice more squarely and radically than before.

I Was Part of the Weather Underground. Violence Is Not the Answer.
By Mark Rudd

My friends and I were members of the Weather Underground, a militant outgrowth of the Weathermen, itself a radical faction of the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society. We saw ourselves as contemporary John Browns, full of moral fervor to stop the senseless war in Vietnam. We also wanted to show solidarity with black revolutionaries ruthlessly targeted by the police and the federal government.

Unlike the vast majority of the millions-strong antiwar movement, our tiny band had rejected peaceful protest and politics, clinging to the delusion that violent revolution was imminent. Determined to “Bring the War Home!” we believed that we were reflecting back onto our fellow Americans the extreme violence of the war and of white supremacy. The bombs that detonated the morning of March 6 were intended, to my and my comrades’ shame, for a dance that night at an Army base in New Jersey.

We didn’t realize that the violence we claimed we hated had infected our souls: At the time, I’m not sure we’d have cared. No one is innocent, we thought.

Two Lawyers, a Summer of Unrest, and a Molotov Cocktail
By Lisa Miller

More than 200 people were arrested in New York City on the night of May 29–30, including Rahman, who is 31, and Mattis, who is 32. Most of the demonstrators were released the next day, but Rahman and Mattis were held for hours at the 88th Precinct in Clinton Hill, interrogated, taken into federal custody, and finally charged with seven federal crimes — including arson, conspiracy, and the commission of a “crime of violence” using a “destructive device,” a charge that carries, if they are convicted, a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years. Altogether, Rahman and Mattis each face nonnegotiable sentences of 45 years to life.

To be a lawyer is to agree to play by the rules, or at least to acknowledge that the rules exist, even as you seek to bend them. And it is this simplistic, romantic understanding of a lawyer’s job that is part of what has the government so provoked, as if going to law school is or should be a safeguard against breaking the law. “The conduct,” said U.S. District Court judge Margo Brodie in reference to this case, was “completely lawless.” At a recent bail hearing, one of the prosecutors argued similarly. “These were lawyers,” he said, “who had every reason to know what they were doing was wrong and knew the consequences. Committing this crime required a fundamental change in mind-set for them.”

But to work within that system is to understand just how capricious and brutal criminal justice can be — the enormous latitude given to prosecutors, the deference extended to judges and juries, and the procedural protocols and professional ethics that often merely cover for the status quo. And when a president and his advisers seem to regard the law as an obstacle course; when an attorney general metes out favors, not justice; and when immigrant children are held in cages and men are killed on video by police, some lawyers may want to embrace a more flexible definition of “lawless.” As recently as a few years ago, even a progressive-minded lawyer might have regarded fervent, visible participation in a political protest as professionally unbecoming. Today, some of Mattis and Rahman’s friends may concede in private that throwing a Molotov cocktail represents a lapse in judgment, but none are willing to discuss the degree to which their friends may have been ethically, professionally, morally, or legally out of bounds. Instead, they emphasize that violence against government property, especially in the midst of political upheaval, is not the same as violence against a person; that the prosecution of their friends for an act of what amounted to political vandalism is far more extreme than the crime itself; that it amounts to a criminalization of dissent and reflects a broader right-wing crusade against people of color and the progressive left — and, as such, demonstrates precisely the horror of the system they were out in the streets that night to protest. There is a version of the Rahman and Mattis story in which they are civil-rights heroes, even martyrs, instead of professionals who crossed a line.

Two months since the riots, and still no “National Conversation”
By Michael Tracey

“You think you’re getting justice, but you’re just tearing up your own community,” a black woman in her 40s who runs a bakery in a predominantly black part of Milwaukee — in which significant, but conspicuously undercovered riots took place — told me. She added that she would be livid if she found out that her daughter in her early 20s ever participated in such activities, and was generally condemnatory of those responsible for causing the chaos. (Many people online have made it clear that they don’t believe me, but I swear I have not “cherry-picked” any of these interviewees.)

Of the dozens and dozens of randomly-selected black Americans that I have so far spoken to across the United States, only two expressed what one might call a “positive” view of the riots, and they were both young men. Everyone else I have encountered is unabashedly scornful of rioting, and many even express apprehensions about the basic logic of a movement referred to as “Black Lives Matter,” which incongruously appears to them to have caused increased suffering in their predominantly black neighborhoods. Here’s an interview I conducted on video with a black man, Tony in Milwaukee, who describes what it was like to escape from a riotous mob on his way home from work. “It’s crazy man. I really don’t understand it. Cuz they sayin’ Black Lives Matter and all this stuff,” he said. “But man, you’re hurting the black community.” He, like many others in various places where riots occurred, also expressed confusion about why the wrongful police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis should have necessitated random destruction in their own city — hundreds of miles away — with its own set of localized concerns that don’t necessarily have anything in common with Minneapolis.

Abolish the Police? Those Who Survived the Chaos in Seattle Aren’t So Sure
By Nellie Bowles

Faizel Khan was being told by the news media and his own mayor that the protests in his hometown were peaceful, with “a block party atmosphere.”

But that was not what he saw through the windows of his Seattle coffee shop. He saw encampments overtaking the sidewalks. He saw roving bands of masked protesters smashing windows and looting.

Young white men wielding guns would harangue customers as well as Mr. Khan, a gay man of Middle Eastern descent who moved here from Texas so he could more comfortably be out. To get into his coffee shop, he sometimes had to seek the permission of self-appointed armed guards to cross a border they had erected.

“They barricaded us all in here,” Mr. Khan said. “And they were sitting in lawn chairs with guns.”

For 23 days in June, about six blocks in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood were claimed by left-wing demonstrators and declared police-free.

On Capitol Hill, business crashed as the Seattle police refused to respond to calls to the area. Officers did not retake the region until July 1, after four shootings, including two fatal ones.

Now a group of local businesses owners — including a locksmith, the owner of a tattoo parlor, a mechanic, the owners of a Mexican restaurant and Mr. Khan — is suing the city. The lawsuit claims that “Seattle’s unprecedented decision to abandon and close off an entire city neighborhood, leaving it unchecked by the police, unserved by fire and emergency health services, and inaccessible to the public” resulted in enormous property damage and lost revenue.

The economic losses that businesses suffered during the recent tumult are significant: One community relief fund in Minneapolis, where early protests included vandalism and arson, has raised $9 million for businesses along the Lake Street corridor, a largely Latino and East African business district. “We asked the small businesses what they needed to cover the damage that insurance wasn’t paying, and the gap was around $200 million,” said Allison Sharkey, the executive director of the Lake Street Council, which is organizing the fund. Her own office, between a crafts market and a Native American support center, was burned down in the protests.

Some small businesses have resorted to posting GoFundMe pleas for donations online.

Many are nervous about speaking out lest they lend ammunition to a conservative critique of the Black Lives Matter movement. In Portland, Elizabeth Snow McDougall, the owner of Stevens-Ness legal printers, emphasized her support for the cause before describing the damage done to her business.

“One window broken, then another, then another, then another. Garbage to clean off the sidewalk in front of the store every morning. Urine to wash out of our doorway alcove. Graffiti to remove,” Ms. McDougall wrote in an email. “Costs to board up and later we’ll have costs to repair.”

The impact of the occupation on Cafe Argento, Mr. Khan’s coffee shop on Capitol Hill, has been devastating. Very few people braved the barricades set up by the armed occupiers to come in for his coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Cars coming to pick up food orders would turn around. At two points, he and his workers felt scared and called 911. “They said they would not come into CHOP,” said Mr. Khan, referring to one of the names that protesters gave to the occupied Capitol Hill area. “It was lawless.”

He had to start chipping in for private security, a hard thing to do when his business had already been hurt by the coronavirus.

But he considers himself lucky — and he was. Even weeks after the protests, blocks of his previously bustling neighborhood remained boarded up and covered in shattered glass. Many business owners are scared to speak out, Mr. Khan said, because of worries that they would be targeted further.

After President Trump took aim at the governor of Washington State and Seattle’s mayor on June 11, Ms. Durkan defended the occupation on Twitter as “a peaceful expression of our community’s collective grief and their desire to build a better world,” she wrote, pointing to the “food trucks, spaghetti potlucks, teach-ins, and movies.”

The lawsuit by the small-business owners, filed by the firm Calfo Eakes on June 24, seizes on such language, pointing out that the city knew what was happening and provided material support for the occupation.

Matthew Ploszaj, a Capitol Hill resident, is one of the complainants. He said his apartment building, blocks from Mr. Khan’s shop, was broken into four times during the occupation. The Seattle Police were called each time and never came to his apartment, according to Mr. Ploszaj. When he and another resident called the police after one burglary, they told him to meet them outside the occupation zone, about eight blocks away. He and other residents spent nights at a friend’s house outside the area during the height of the protests.

The employees of Bergman’s Lock and Key say they were followed by demonstrators with baseball bats. Cure Cocktail, a local bar and charcuterie, said its workers were asked by protesters to pledge loyalty to the movement: “Are you for the CHOP or are you for the police?” they were asked, according to the lawsuit.

The business owners also found that trying to get help from the Seattle Police, who declined to comment for this article, made them targets of activists.

Across from Cafe Argento is a funky old auto repair shop called Car Tender run by John McDermott, a big soft-spoken man. On June 14, Mr. McDermott was driving his wife home from their anniversary dinner when he received a call from a neighbor who saw someone trying to break into his shop.

Mr. McDermott and his 27-year-old son, Mason, raced over. A man who was inside the shop, Mr. McDermott said, had emptied the cash drawer and was in the midst of setting the building on fire. Mr. McDermott said he and his son wrestled the man down and planned to hold him until the police arrived. But officers never showed up. A group of several hundred protesters did, according to Mr. McDermott, breaking down the chain-link fence around his shop and claiming that Mr. McDermott had kidnapped the man.

“They started coming across the fence — you see all these beautiful kids, a mob but kids — and they have guns and are pointing them at you and telling you they’re going to kill you,” Mr. McDermott said. “Telling me I’m the K.K.K. I’m not the K.K.K.”

The demonstrators were livestreaming the confrontation. Mr. McDermott’s wife watched, frantically calling anyone she could think of to go help him.

Later, Mr. McDermott’s photo and shop address appeared on a website called Cop Blaster, whose stated aim is to track police brutality but also has galleries of what it calls “Snitches” and “Cop Callers.” The McDermotts were categorized as both of those things on the website, which warned they should “keep their mouths shut.”

Many of the listings include names and addresses of people who are said to have called the police. Since the Cop Blaster post went up, Mr. McDermott’s shop has received so many harassing phone calls and messages that some employees have had to take time off.

In a city known for violence, Detroit protests have not been marred by arson, looting, destruction
By George Hunter

In a span of just 24 years — between 1943 and 1967 — two major racial conflicts left 77 people dead and blocks of Detroit in ruins. And for more than a decade starting in the mid-1980s, arson fires ravaged the city each Devil’s Night, the night before Halloween.

“It wasn’t many years ago when we were known as the city that burned because of Devil’s Night,” said Martin Jones of the Detroit 300 activist group. “That stopped because of the engagement of the community, the city and the police.

Police and city officials, residents and some activists say strong police-community relations have helped keep the peace.

“The time to establish relationships with the community isn’t when something goes wrong,” Mayor Mike Duggan said. “You have to be proactive, and the police department has worked with the community for six years now.

“When you think that we’ve not had one building burned, or one store looted, I think you’re seeing all that hard work paying off,” he said.

Many of the police reforms people are calling for in cities across the country, such as banning chokeholds and hiring police officers who reflect their communities’ demographics, have already been enacted in Detroit during 13 years of federal oversight, and afterward.

Detroiters also say they either remember, or grew up hearing about, the 1967 civil unrest that destroyed wide swaths of the city — and they insist they don’t want to repeat that disaster.

“Detroit has a different mindset,” said Eileen Wilson, a 72-year-old lifelong resident of the city. “We have a good relationship with the police here now. We didn’t have any riots (during recent demonstrations) because we’ve already been there, done that.

“There aren’t many people of my age involved in the protests, but maybe people imparted to their children like I did that there’s nothing to be gained from burning down our city, because we saw what happened in 1967, and in my opinion, we still never recovered from that,” Wilson said.

Allen Dennard, 26, doesn’t remember the 1967 rebellion — “but people still talk about it,” he said late last month as he walked to a protest outside Public Safety Headquarters.

“Everyone says how devastating the riot was, and how we destroyed our own neighborhoods. We’re not here to do that. This is a new day. We want change, but we’re not going to burn our city down.”

Riot-Torn Twin Cities Are Already Forgotten
By Michael Tracey

“It’s been agony,” says Mohamed Ali, a native of Somalia. “I respect the public anger, but I think we carried it too far, to burn our city.” At the height of the chaos, rioters set a large fire in front of his apartment, which sits atop several streetside shops. He spray-painted desperate appeals onto plywood affixed to the storefront windows: “Don’t burn please . . . Kids live upstairs.”

“All these businesses are still boarded, and it’s over a month later,” Mr. Ali said, gesturing in every direction of his Minneapolis neighborhood. ”This was a thriving area,” he said. “Now a lot of minority businesses are burned.”

Long Her, a Laotian immigrant, has operated a clothing store in St. Paul since 1991. When he surveyed his losses after the riots, he openly wept: 550 suits, 249 pairs of pants, 227 dress shirts and 180 pairs of shoes, as well as his cash register, other electronics and damage to windows and the front door. Many of his most valuable possessions, kept in a heavy-duty safe, were stolen, along with his U.S. citizenship papers.

A month later, he hasn’t heard anything from the authorities. “They don’t have the law to protect the people,” Mr. Her says. He never had to call the police in nearly 30 years until the riots erupted in late May—and officers still have not come to investigate: “They say no one available.” His store is open, but the door is boarded up and customers are scant: “They call me,” he says, referring to his largely Hmong clientele. “They say, ‘We would come, but we’re afraid.’ ” He’s had to lay off five employees and sleeps in the store every night, on guard against another possible riot.

Flora Westbrooks owned a hair salon in North Minneapolis for 34 years. It had already been closed for several months due to Covid-19, but Ms. Westbrooks was planning to reopen on June 1. She’d already purchased sanitation supplies and prepared new protocols to comply with state and city regulations. On May 29, an arsonist burned the place down.

“Sometimes I’m like, OK, I gotta go to work,” Ms. Westbrooks says. “I gotta go do something at the shop. And then I forget—I don’t own anything anymore. Everything’s burned to the ground. I have nothing no more. Everything I worked for.” Through her business, she earned enough money to buy a home, a car and a law-school education for her son: “My salon was everything to me.”

Ms. Westbrooks’s plight attracted modest media attention in the immediate aftermath of the riots, spurring the creation of a GoFundMe page, but contributions have fallen off. She said she and a group of fellow shellshocked small-business owners met briefly with Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, Gov. Tim Walz and other elected officials in a McDonald’s parking lot near the wreckage. But there has been no follow-up. “I haven’t heard anything,” she says. “You know, it’s been a month now.”

“They never told us what they was gonna do,” Ms. Westbrooks says. “What are you going to do for us? We have no job, we have no income. What are you going to do for us?” She had no insurance.

Ms. Westbrooks says she assigns at least part of the blame for what happened to negligence by government officials. The Minneapolis Police Department abandoned the neighborhood, she says. And the National Guard, whose deployment Ms. Westbrooks supported, arrived too late.

‘Everything Is Gone’: Looting Strikes a Second Blow to Reeling Businesses in Minority Neighborhoods
By Scott Calvert and Ruth Simon

After dark, some people have wrecked and looted businesses, straining an already fragile U.S. economy. Vandalism and theft at many large retailers in high-end business districts and at stores ranging from Apple Inc. to Walmart Inc. are delaying efforts to restart an economy that lost 40 million jobs to the Covid-19 pandemic. The damage to small businesses could be more devastating, potentially permanently closing doors.

The pain is more pronounced in America’s black communities. African-Americans were disproportionately sickened or killed by the new coronavirus. And black people and Latinos were more likely to lose their jobs than white workers as the economy shrank in March and April.

Small businesses, especially minority-owned ones, typically have little savings and very often don’t have multiple locations to help blunt the ravages of the pandemic and the looting. Forty-six percent of black-owned businesses were profitable at the end of 2017 compared with 55% of white-owned firms, according to a report released in 2019 by the regional Federal Reserve Banks.

They often aren’t insured against riots and other man-made disasters and have little in the way of financial reserves, said Daniel Aldrich, director of the Security and Resilience Studies Program at Northeastern University. The pandemic only makes matters worse, he said, because sales are already down and when life will return to normal remains so unclear. “For these small businesses, it’s a triple storm,” he said.

‘They Have Lost Control’: Why Minneapolis Burned
By Farah Stockman

“Once Frey comes out and basically sides with the protesters, he has sent the signal that the police are on their own,” said Lawrence Jacobs, professor of public policy at the University of Minnesota. “If you are going to say something like that, you have to have a plan for what is going to happen, because you have now inflamed both sides of the issue.”

Elected two and a half years earlier, at the age of 36, Mr. Frey had promised to remake the city’s public image after years of negative news stories about high-profile police killings. His meteoric rise in Minnesota politics stemmed from his ability to talk the language of social justice while at the same time wooing the business community with his charisma.

“I’m disgusted that Minneapolis is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons,” he said in a campaign ad in 2017. “Police shootings. Intolerance and inequality.”

Mr. Frey decided to pull officers off the street outside the Third Precinct building in a bid to de-escalate tension. But it had the opposite effect, according to Patricia Torres Ray, a state senator from Minneapolis who represents the district, a racially diverse area that has seen increased development in recent years. Looters broke into the liquor store across the street from the police precinct house and handed out bottles to the crowd.

A few hundred soldiers with the National Guard, along with members of the state patrol, arrived in Minneapolis late Thursday night. But they didn’t go to the police precinct. Instead, the Minneapolis Police Department had asked them to escort fire trucks, and to protect the Federal Reserve and Nicollet Mall, an upscale shopping area downtown.

But things were spinning out of control in the neighborhood around the precinct house. Nearly every building around it had been vandalized, looted or set on fire. Neighbors banded together to protect their own property, since 911 dispatchers were overwhelmed. “Do not put yourself at risk to protect our store,” Mr. Schwesnedl posted on the Facebook page of Moon Palace Books. “Your life is priceless, just like George Floyd’s.”

Town Talk Diner, which had fed the neighborhood since 1946, so long that its iconic teal sign had been added to the list of historic landmarks, was first looted that Wednesday night, then burned to the ground on Thursday night.

“Unthinkable and surreal,” Kacey White and Charles Stotts, the husband and wife team who own the restaurant, wrote on Facebook. “Brought down by a mighty blaze, the old bright sign illuminated for the final time, in the wee hours, from the flames that surrounded her.”

The headquarters of Migizi, a nonprofit that runs programs for Native American teens, was destroyed by fire just one year after the group raised $1.6 million to purchase and renovate it. “It hurts to see hard work, dreams and spirit — yes spirit — go up in flames,” the staff wrote in a statement. “We will rebuild!”

But the owner of the factory, 7-Sigma, which employed 50 people, announced that the company was moving away because city leaders failed to protect the plant. The company’s Facebook page has been inundated with offers from around the country to welcome the new factory.

Police violence, race and protest in America
By The Economist

Policing America is hard because America is more violent than any other rich country and its citizens more heavily armed. About 50 police officers are murdered while doing their job each year. But the sustained falls in crime over the past three decades have made room for less warlike law enforcement—by training officers to diffuse confrontation, not seek it, and by making them accountable whenever they use force. Many police departments, including Camden, have already taken this chance to turn themselves round (see article). Others have not, partly because the federal government under President Donald Trump has eased the pressure for change. But the police and prosecutors are under local democratic control. They can be made to embrace reform if enough people vote for it.

Pessimism is self-defeating, too. It is a short step from thinking that America’s original racial sin is so deep that it cannot be overcome, to thinking that smashing and burning things is justified, because it is the only way to get attention. Yet if today’s protests slide into persistent rioting, as in 1968 after Martin Luther King’s assassination, the harm they cause could be felt most keenly in African-American districts. Those people who can leave will. The left-behind will be worse off, as home values plunge and jobs and shops disappear. The police may withdraw, leading to an increase in crime, which in turn may eventually bring more violent policing. The scars will be visible for decades.

Across the country, black leaders, who have seen this happen before, are telling protesters not to undermine their cause. “A protest has purpose,” said Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, condemning the vandalism in her city. In recent days protesters have heeded that and have been trying to restrain those who just want to start a fire—some of them white troublemakers.

How white radicals hijacked Portland’s protests
By Michael Tracey

The overwhelmingly white, anarchist activists who populate the ongoing protests in Portland, Oregon should not be underestimated for their strategic savvy. In seizing the mantle of “Black Lives Matter”, they’ve discovered a work-around to arrogate moral cover for whatever insurrectionary upheaval they would have been ideologically committed to fomenting anyway. The Left/liberal political and media class is deeply invested in preserving the untouchable sanctity of “BLM”. So by fusing themselves in the public mind with this ambiguously-defined protest movement, or even putting themselves at the vanguard, the anarchist whites insulate themselves from the type of scrutiny that might ordinarily be prompted by activists whose ultimate goal is the overthrow of the state — and who are happy to engage in what they call “a diversity of tactics” (up to and including violence) to achieve this.

It makes for a bizarre dynamic, as Democratic Party pundits and politicians routinely describe avowed insurrectionists as nothing more than benign “peaceful protesters”. And since the protests came to be arrayed against the federal forces dispatched to Portland by Donald Trump, more conventional elements of the Left/liberal “Resistance” have made common cause with these revolutionary anarchists who regard the very essence of the US political system — not just Trump — as innately fascist and “white supremacist”. On a recent evening, for instance, an older white couple in a pair of matching “Resistance”-branded T-shirts could be spotted in attendance among the radical activists, as well as a man sporting the slogan “Ridin’ with Biden”.

To characterise what’s gone on in Portland as a traditional “protest” is a misnomer, however. Pay a visit to the area around the Federal Courthouse in Downtown after midnight and you are greeted by brigades of black-clad “Antifa” foot soldiers — geared up in full body armour, complete with industrial-grade gas masks, shields and even customised radio systems. Being overwhelmingly white, they are strategic about public presentation: the speakers appointed to address the nightly “rallies” are almost exclusively black, as “amplifying black voices” to whom whites must dutifully “listen” is a central tenet of the Summer 2020 protest ethos.

If there is any foundational idea operative in Portland, it’s to keep a frenetic confrontation with the state going for as long as possible, so as to maximise the chances that an incendiary incident might occur and catalyse a larger insurrectionary uproar — similar to the killing of George Floyd in May, which sparked nationwide riots. One fateful tear gas canister fired into the temple of a “protester” could reverberate rapidly across the country; “Portland solidarity” actions have already sprouted up as far away as Richmond, Virginia. This is by design: a former occupant of the so-called “CHAZ,” the former anarchist commune that took over a portion of Seattle in June, told me a number of people who previously set up shop there had headed south to Portland.

Portland, America’s ‘whitest’ big city, is an unlikely hub of Black Lives Matter
By Patrick J. McDonnell and Melissa Etehad

A key reason why Portland is overwhelmingly white is that Black people were excluded from residing in Oregon until well into the 20th century, said Ethan Johnson, associate professor and chair of Portland State University’s Black Studies Department.

Though Oregon experienced an influx of Black workers during World War II, it was the Pacific state that received the fewest number of Black transplants during the 20th century’s Great Migration from the South, Johnson noted.

That was in part because it was viewed as particularly unwelcome to Black people.

“While this is a progressive city, the other side of the coin is that there is a hidden picture of Black people who are suffering,” Johnson said, citing high rates of high school dropouts, homicides, incarceration and poverty among Black residents.

Gentrification, urban renewal, flooding and other factors have dispersed a Black population that was small to begin with. Portland no longer has a distinctive Black neighborhood.

Hub City Riot Ninjas
By Michael Lind

Gentrification explains why there are so many white young adults, both ordinary protesters and anarchist vandals, compared to African Americans in the videos we see of protests and riots in big cities across the United States, compared to images of urban riots in generations past. Thanks to rising rents, young white leftists and liberals have been displacing the nonwhite working class and poor, many of them social conservatives, in places like Brooklyn and Oakland and Austin. While the initial occasion of a protest may be the death of a member of a minority group in police custody, affluent young white leftists are more interested in symbolic violence against capitalism or patriarchy or whatever.

These children of the economic elite end up harming those on whose behalf they pretend to be speaking. Like the upper-middle-class hippies of the 1960s who called police officers “pigs,” today’s affluent hipsters despise the police, many of whom are their age but are more likely than leftist radicals to be from working-class backgrounds and to be nonwhite. Slogans of elite radicals like “Abolish the Police and Prisons” and comparisons of the Border Patrol to the Gestapo are insults to the unionized, working-class Americans of all races employed by those institutions.

Dressing up as revolutionaries like children on Halloween, the sociopathic heirs of the overclass, already living in neighborhoods from which the working class was forced out by economic privation, take part in the vandalization, looting, and burning of local businesses, many of them owned by immigrants or members of minority groups. If they get arrested, the fortunate among them can count on being bailed out after phone calls to their indulgent liberal or moderate conservative parents, who live in expensive, nearly all-white urban and suburban neighborhoods and denounce racism and fascism on their Facebook pages.

It will take years for the American hub cities damaged by the riots, along with the pandemic and the lockdown, to recover, if they ever recover. The black poor and working class first had their urban industrial jobs taken away from them by corporate executives in the white overclass who offshored them to Mexico or China. Then they were replaced in their former urban neighborhoods by the hipster children of the white overclass. Now even their grievances like protests against horrific police brutality are stolen from them by their supposed allies in the white overclass and turned into an occasion for virtue-signaling or vandalism by the elite.

Why the rich are revolting
By Ed West

The Occupy movement, for example, is deeply opposed to the 1% but largely because they come from the 2-5%; Amy Chua cited figures suggesting that in New York, more than half it members earned $75,000 or more while only 8% were on low incomes, compared to 30% of the city. They also have hugely disproportionate numbers of graduates and post-grads among their members.

The wider Great Awokening, of which the 2020 disturbances are a part, is a very elite phenomenon, with progressive activists nearly twice as likely as the average American to make more than $100,000 a year, nearly three times as likely to have a postgraduate degree, and only one-quarter as likely to be black. Likewise with the radicalisation of American academia, with the safe spaces movement most prevalent at elite colleges, where students were much more likely to disinvite speakers or express more extreme views.

In 1968 the workers of Paris famously refused to side with the students, while in the US, as Christopher Caldwell noted in The Age of Entitlement, that year’s protests and the wider political conflict was partly about social status, with Ivy League students fighting working-class cops, many of whom had sons or brothers in Vietnam fighting a war they still believed in.

“When 135 students affiliated with Students for a Democratic Society occupied Harvard’s University Hall,” Caldwell writes: “the Harvard professor of Irish literature John Kelleher, a working-class Irishman from Lawrence, Massachusetts, called them ‘spoiled brats with an underdeveloped sense of history and a flair for self-protection’”. After 1968, “privileged Americans took out of the Vietnam era a sense of their own moral authority that was not battered but strangely enhanced.” The new class war had begun.

This trend would only accelerate, driven by a combination of media, expanding education and globalisation. In his highly prophetic The Revolt of the Elites, published after his death in 1994, Christopher Lasch argued that the new ruling class was becoming far more radicalised as its values diverged from a more parochial lumpen bourgeois. This more global-minded elite, used to seeing the world at 30,000ft, now embraced diversity as a mark of status but also a faith, with identity politics a replacement for religion — “or at least for the feeling of self-righteousness that is so commonly confused with religion”.

Profiles of the Hidden Tribes
By More in Common

Progressive Activists
8% of Americans

“The deck is stacked against people of color, against women, against people who don’t have the advantages that others have. It’s not an egalitarian society by any means.”

60-year-old man, Indiana, Progressive Activist

Progressive Activists have strong ideological views, high levels of engagement with political issues, and the highest levels of education and socioeconomic status. Their own circumstances are secure. They feel safer than any group, which perhaps frees them to devote more attention to larger issues of social justice in their society. They have an outsized role in public debates, even though they comprise a small portion of the total population, about one in 12 Americans. They are highly sensitive to issues of fairness and equity in society, particularly regarding race, gender, and other minority group identities. Their emphasis on unjust power structures leads them to be very pessimistic about fairness in America. They are uncomfortable with nationalism and ambivalent about America’s role in the world.

Main concerns
Climate Change, Inequality, Poverty

Compared to the average American:

  1. More than twice as likely to list politics as a hobby (73 percent v. 35 percent)
  2. Three times more likely to say that people’s outcomes result from “luck and circumstance” (75 percent v. 25 percent)
  3. Less likely to believe the world is becoming a “more and more dangerous place” (19 percent v. 38 percent)
  4. More than twice as likely to say that they never pray (50 percent v. 19 percent)
  5. Almost three times more likely to be “ashamed to be an American” (69 percent v. 24 percent)
  6. More likely to say they are proud of their political ideology (64 percent v. 43 percent)
  7. Eleven percent more likely to be white (80 percent v. 69 percent)
  8. Seven percent more likely to be between the ages of 18 and 29 (28 percent v. 21 percent)
  9. Twice as likely to have completed college (59 percent v. 29 percent)

Bernie Sanders Only Has Eyes for One Wing of the Democratic Party
By Thomas B. Edsall

Eitan Hersh, who is also a political scientist at Tufts, suggests in his new book, “Politics Is for Power,” that the Democratic left is threatened by a political side effect of the internet.

The web, he writes, has facilitated the growth — concentrated especially in the ranks of well-educated white progressives — of voters seeking “a shortcut to feeling engaged without being engaged,” voters for whom “emotion — righteous anger — is an end rather than a means to an end.”

Hersh calls these voters “hobbyists.” They spend an hour a day or more closely following politics primarily on social media, but they rarely, if ever, actually engage in politics through volunteering or other grass roots activity.

Hersh provided data comparing the demographics of hobbyists to non-hobbyists.

First and foremost, hobbyists are white, 82 percent, compared with 67 percent for non-hobbyists. They are majority male, 53 percent, compared with non-hobbyists who are 59 percent female. They are better educated, 37 percent with college degrees, compared with 30 percent among non-hobbyists.

In a further refinement of his analysis, Hersh compared voters who spend an hour or more a day on politics and do no volunteer work with those who spend an hour a day but also perform volunteer work — in other words, those who not only follow politics closely but also engage in grass roots activities.

There were some striking differences, Hersh wrote by email:

The people who spend an hour or more a day on politics but no time in volunteerism are 82 percent white, but those who do volunteering are only 60 percent white. The political hobbyists are 47 percent women but the volunteers are 64 percent women.

I asked Hersh why certain Democrats and liberals were drawn to hobbyism. One factor, according to Hersh, is that many hobbyists are not facing hard times:

College educated whites do politics as a leisure activity because the status quo is pretty good for them, and they are not motivated either by fears or by a sense of linked fate to those who do have pressing needs to get off their couches. They might say they hate Trump, are worried about polarization, are afraid of climate change, etc., but they aren’t really interested in doing anything about it because they don’t find the direction of the country sufficiently threatening to them.

If political hobbyists go ahead and vote, why worry about what they do or don’t do?

Hersh’s answer:

Political hobbyism isn’t just a distinct activity from the pursuit of political power; it hinders the pursuit of political power.

Since politics, including the politics of governing, is a competition in the exercise of power and influence, corporations and rich people are going to press for their interests no matter what. Insofar as progressive forces include a disproportionate share of hobbyists — as they currently do — progressives are going to be weakened in that struggle for power.

The Hipster in the Mirror
By Mark Greif

Taste is not stable and peaceful, but a means of strategy and competition. Those superior in wealth use it to pretend they are superior in spirit. Groups closer in social class who yet draw their status from different sources use taste and its attainments to disdain one another and get a leg up. These conflicts for social dominance through culture are exactly what drive the dynamics within communities whose members are regarded as hipsters.

Once you take the Bourdieuian view, you can see how hipster neighborhoods are crossroads where young people from different origins, all crammed together, jockey for social gain. One hipster subgroup’s strategy is to disparage others as “liberal arts college grads with too much time on their hands”; the attack is leveled at the children of the upper middle class who move to cities after college with hopes of working in the “creative professions.” These hipsters are instantly declassed, reservoired in abject internships and ignored in the urban hierarchy — but able to use college-taught skills of classification, collection and appreciation to generate a superior body of cultural “cool.”

They, in turn, may malign the “trust fund hipsters.” This challenges the philistine wealthy who, possessed of money but not the nose for culture, convert real capital into “cultural capital” (Bourdieu’s most famous coinage), acquiring subculture as if it were ready-to-wear. (Think of Paris Hilton in her trucker hat.)

Both groups, meanwhile, look down on the couch-­surfing, old-clothes-wearing hipsters who seem most authentic but are also often the most socially precarious — the lower-middle-class young, moving up through style, but with no backstop of parental culture or family capital. They are the bartenders and boutique clerks who wait on their well-to-do peers and wealthy tourists. Only on the basis of their cool clothes can they be “superior”: hipster knowledge compensates for economic immobility.

All hipsters play at being the inventors or first adopters of novelties: pride comes from knowing, and deciding, what’s cool in advance of the rest of the world. Yet the habits of hatred and accusation are endemic to hipsters because they feel the weakness of everyone’s position — including their own. Proving that someone is trying desperately to boost himself instantly undoes him as an opponent. He’s a fake, while you are a natural aristocrat of taste. That’s why “He’s not for real, he’s just a hipster” is a potent insult among all the people identifiable as hipsters themselves.

YouTube socialist Carlos Maza slams the wealthy but lived in luxury
By Jon Levine

“Just found out James Carville — who spends his time lecturing Democrats for being ‘too far left’ — lives in an absolutely obscene four-story mansion,” Maza said in one such example from February — blasting the longtime Democratic strategist and posting a photo of Carville’s old home to his Twitter account.

“Dear god can we STOP taking political advice from the ultra-wealthy,” he moaned. “You really have to respect this guy’s grift. Constantly dressing in normal clothes on TV to feign relatability while living like this. Masterful con artist.”

“We should treat gay people the SAME WAY we treat straight people: Eating them when they get too rich,” he said in another post.

Like any good online socialist, Maza raises money for his internet presence through a Patreon account, where “comrades” — a word he uses to describe his supporters — can fund him in increments of $2, $5 and $10 a month.

But if Maza wants to start eating the rich, he may have to begin with his own family.

Public records show Vivian, Scott, Carlos and sister Isabel all registered to vote at a five-bedroom, eight-bathroom waterfront palace in Boca Raton, Florida. The property sold in 2018 for $10.8 million, according to realty website Zillow. Scherr also unloaded a four-bedroom, four-bath home in Weston, Florida, for $1,850,000 in 2015.

Vivian currently resides full-time in a $4.4 million, two-bedroom, three-bath luxury condo in Fort Lauderdale, which she lists as her primary residence, according to a 2020 report filed by LCH 23, LLC — which she controls.

The same LLC purchased a $7,125,000 condo on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in November 2017.

While serving as CEO of Ultimate Software, Scherr was one of the most handsomely compensated CEOs in the country. In 2015 he took home $38.3 million, CBS News reported. In 2008, Scherr’s total stock and options in Ultimate were valued at $17.8 million, with shares at the time selling for about $35. In 2019, the company sold for $11 billion, with stock going for $331.50, almost certainly making Scherr and family nine-figure millionaires — if not billionaires.

How Democrats Became the Party of the Upper Middle Class
By Ramesh Ponnuru

The cultural issues are what interest and excite a lot of today’s Democrats. It’s why they’re Democrats (just as it’s why many Republicans are Republicans). A Democratic Party organized around left-populist economics would have to tolerate, even nurture, a socially conservative wing. It is not at all clear that Democratic activists and voters would put up with one.

Sanders’s own evolution over the course of his presidential campaigns suggests that he did not believe that a heavily economics-based message was capable of winning the nomination given the Democrats’ current coalition. He switched his position on immigration, making peace with the party’s current hostility to enforcement. Early overtures toward Democrats who were left-wing on economics but opposed to abortion went nowhere. Racial justice became a more prominent theme.

Some of these moves were surely designed, in part, to increase Sanders’s anemic appeal to African-American Democrats. But they also reflected the truth that the progressive Democrats a left-wing candidacy would need tend to be white. The “awokening” of white Democrats is in part a consequence of the realignment of white voters along cultural lines. Socially conservative whites have largely left the Democratic Party and socially liberal whites joined it, while nonwhites of varying views on social issues are mostly Democrats.

The result is that today’s white Democrats routinely register more progressive views, even on racial issues, than blacks or Hispanics do. The audience within the party for a politics that mutes or moderates on social issues keeps dwindling. So does the proportion of Democratic politicians who represent places where that kind of politics would work.

Which is not to deny that voters’ economic interests have their effect, too. One reason Democratic voters’ views have shifted on immigration is that fewer of them regard themselves as potential competitors with immigrants and more of them as potential employers of immigrants.

Here we come to one more barrier between working-class whites and the Democratic Party: The party’s economic agenda, even on its left wing, increasingly reflects the priorities of its new upper-middle-class supporters.

It’s not just the state-and-local tax deduction. For more than a generation, the Democratic Party has been trying to assure America’s middle class that it has no plans to raise taxes — and the definition of the middle class has kept climbing the income ladder just as the Democratic base has become more upscale. In 1993, President Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress raised income taxes on married couples making the equivalent of $245,000 today. Biden is now pledging not to raise taxes on people making less than $400,000.

Proposals for free college would primarily benefit students from high-earning households and those who are likely to be high earners themselves. Two-thirds of the benefits of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s student-loan forgiveness plan — and remember that her platform was widely described as the cutting edge of progressive policy thinking — would go to the highest-earning 40% of households.

As Brian Riedl explains in an analysis for the conservative Manhattan Institute, much of today’s Democratic agenda serves to redistribute income from the very richest Americans to the merely affluent. Even Medicare for All is less progressive in economic terms than one might think. While its precise impact would depend on the choices made to fund it (a topic about which its backers have been notoriously coy), the Committee for a Responsible Budget has concluded it “would increase transfer payments to all income groups but more for individuals higher up the income ladder … This is likely driven by the fact that many of those lower on the income spectrum already have access to taxpayer-financed or subsidized health coverage.”

It cannot be a coincidence that this agenda lines up so neatly with the emerging shape of the Democratic voting base. It may not drive working-class whites further away from the party, as it rarely imposes direct harms on them. But it seems unlikely to do much to attract them, either, and especially to get them to overlook their objections to Democratic positions on other issues. The party’s platform, in other words, is at least as likely to accelerate as to limit the existing trends among white voters.

It is entirely possible, of course, that by next year the U.S. will have a Democratic president and Congress — just as a rebound in white working-class support for Democrats this fall is easy to imagine, based on the current weakness of the economy and Trump’s persistent unpopularity. What looks unlikely is a large and lasting movement by this group of voters toward the Democrats, or anything like a return to class politics.

Hillary Clinton has boasted that in 2016, she won the places in America that produce two-thirds of our economic output. It’s not a boast that previous generations of Democrats could have made, or would have thought to make. It is a far cry from Hubert Humphrey’s mantra that Democrats represented those at the dawn, in the twilight, and in the shadows of life. The Clintons’ presidential aspirations may be over. It is still very much their party.

How ‘Never Trumpers’ Crashed The Democratic Party
By Perry Bacon Jr.

Anti-Donald Trump activism among conservatives — known informally as the “#NeverTrump” movement — started in early 2016 as a way to stop the businessman from winning the GOP nomination. It failed.

Even by the slightly broader standard of influencing Republican politics, #NeverTrump has been largely unsuccessful. Trump won around 90 percent of self-identified Republican voters in 2016, similar to past GOP presidential nominees. About 90 percent of Republicans have approved of Trump throughout his first term, similar to George W. Bush’s standing in his first four years in office. And with Trump as the face of the party, Republican congressional candidates won around 90 percent of the GOP vote in the 2018 midterms, just as in recent midterm elections. There is really only one anti-Trump figure among the 249 Republicans on Capitol Hill: Sen. Mitt Romney.

“Never Trumpers” tried to draft a high-profile Republican like Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to run against Trump for the GOP nomination. That didn’t pan out either. Facing fairly weak opponents, Trump easily won the GOP primaries that occurred earlier this year. Polls also suggest most Republicans will be strongly behind Trump this November too — he is getting about 90 percent of the Republican vote in head-to-head match-ups with the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.

But “Never Trumpers” are increasingly involved in the Democratic Party and have gradually shifted their tactics in that direction — effectively becoming a “Never Trump” and “Never Bernie Sanders” coalition. And they appear to be having more success shaping their new party than the one that many of them had been associated with for much of their lives.

… anti-Trump conservatives are arguably way overrepresented in elite media, at least compared to their numbers in the general population. The New York Times, for example, has three conservative-leaning but Trump-skeptical opinion columnists — David Brooks, Ross Douthat, Bret Stephens — and no columnists who regularly align with the president. MSNBC has programs fronted by two anti-Trump hosts once closely aligned with the GOP establishment — ex-Rep. Joe Scarborough and Nicolle Wallace, a former communications director for President George W. Bush — and no explicitly pro-Trump hosts. Among the 53 Washington Post opinion writers highlighted on the paper’s website, seven are people who have identified with conservatives and/or the Republican Party in the past but regularly attack Trump. Just four are conservatives who regularly defend the president. … Numerous anti-Trump conservatives are also featured prominently on CNN. …

The extent to which “Never Trumpers” become card-carrying members of the Democratic Party might have broad implications for the party’s future. Are we seeing the birth of a new, ex-conservative faction in the Democratic Party or the resurgence of an existing one, with “Never Trump” conservatives joining with longtime Democratic moderates? Could that wing of the party become as strong as it was in the 1990s? The 2018 general elections and the 2020 primaries suggest more centrist Democratic candidates are winning among white, college-educated voters in the suburbs against both Trump Republicans but also Sanders Democrats. That’s an opportunity for Democrats to expand their coalition — after all, white voters are the majority of American voters. It’s also likely to be a challenge: The more liberal bloc of the Democratic Party increasingly favors big, transformative policies on economic issues that longtime moderate Democrats and ex-Republicans are unlikely to ever embrace.

Kansas Should Go F— Itself
By Matt Taibbi

America’s financial and political establishment has always been most terrified of an inclusive underclass movement. So it evangelizes a bizarre transgressive politics that tells white conservatives to fuck themselves and embraces a leftist sub-theology that preaches class as a racist canard. Same old game, same old goal: keep people divided. The only cost to the “consensus thinkers” who will likely re-take the White House under Joe Biden is, they will have to join Nike and Bank of America in flying a “Black Lives Matter” banner above a conference room or two as they re-take their seats at the controls of the S.S. Neoliberalism.

Who gets to define what’s ‘racist?’
By Musa al-Gharbi

White elites —who play an outsized role in defining racism in academia, the media, and the broader culture — instead seem to define ‘racism’ in ways that are congenial to their own preferences and priorities. Rather than actually dismantling white supremacy or meaningfully empowering people of color, efforts often seem to be oriented towards consolidating social and cultural capital in the hands of the ‘good’ whites. Charges of “racism,” for instance, are primarily deployed against the political opponents of upwardly-mobile, highly-educated progressive white people. Even to the point of branding prominent black or brown dissenters as race-traitors (despite the reality that, on average, blacks and Hispanics tend to be significantly more socially conservative and religious than whites).

The politicized nature of these accusations is not lost on their intended targets. The blowback against a perceived overuse of “racism” charges seems to have significantly contributed to the rise of Donald Trump and other demagogic figures in the U.S. and Western Europe. It is primarily marginalized and vulnerable populations who tend to suffer when such figures come into power (upwardly mobile highly-educated whites, regardless of their political leanings, are still doing just fine). Indeed, evidence is growing that many fashionable formulations of “racism” (and antiracist activism) may be directly pernicious for people of color.

For instance, a recent metanalysis on microaggressions found little empirical substantiation for the harm claims advanced in the literature. Yet there is abundant research demonstrating harm caused by heightened perceptions of racism, discrimination, racialized violence, and racial inequality. There are very well-established and highly-adverse impacts on the psychological (and even physical) well-being of people of color when they perceive more racism, racial inequality, and discrimination. That is, we have not (yet) been able to empirically verify that microaggressions are typically harmful, nor have we been able to effectively measure the extent of that harm. (Again, the vast majority of blacks and Hispanics find even the paradigm cases to be inoffensive). However, we have ample reason to believe that sensitizing people to better perceive and to take greater offense at these “slights” actually would cause harm.

Similar problems emerge with respect to other popular approaches: training on ‘multiculturalism’ seems to reinforce race-essentialism among those who go through it; teaching whites about racial privilege seems to do little to change attitudes or behaviors towards African Americans — it merely increases resentment against lower-SES whites. Metanalysis after metanalysis fails to find strong empirical links between “implicitly racist” attitudes and actual racist behaviors “in the world.” It seems as though the primary effect of such training, among those who go through it, is higher levels of racial resentment. Yet entire industries have cropped up to help people understand and fight their implicit racial biases.


The short answer is that these approaches — despite being demonstrably ineffective (or even counter-productive) — are relatively easy to execute. They allow institutions, and social elites, to gesture that they are “on board” with antiracism and “doing something” about racialized inequality without actually making major changes to the way they do business.

Constraining the Corporation
By Oren Cass

In the New York Times, Ross Douthat observed:

Corporate activism on social issues isn’t in tension with corporate self-interest on tax policy and corporate stinginess in paychecks. Rather, the activism increasingly exists to protect the self-interest and the stinginess — to justify the ways of C.E.O.s to cultural power brokers, so that those same power brokers will leave them alone (and forgive their support for Trump’s economic agenda) in realms that matter more to the corporate bottom line.

Just as CSR is notable for the naked admission of its practitioners that the goal remains unconstrained profit maximization, woke capital is admirably upfront about its cynicism. Apple and the NBA, for instance, remains silent on human-rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, but found intolerable North Carolina’s requirement that people use public bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex. “I think we deal with whatever set of circumstances are dealt to us,” said Commissioner Adam Silver when pressed on his principles. “I don’t have a cut-and-dried response to that. … It’s net incredibly positive for us to be [playing games in China]. It wasn’t a net positive to continue the track we were on and playing our All-Star Game this season in Charlotte.”

Corporate decisions on when to take a stand or demur are incomprehensible when viewed through the lens of principle. They make perfect sense if understood as profit maximization and, specifically, an effort to curry favor with the highest-value consumers and employees, who are presumed to be cultural elites with socially progressive priorities. Sometimes firms even say the quiet part out loud. Trendy companies like Zoom, Slack, Square, and BirchBox published a full-page ad in the New York Times warning that abortion restrictions are “bad for business.” Nearly 400 companies including McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, and Google submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in Obergefell vs. Hodges asserting that “allowing same-sex­couples to marry improves employee morale and productivity.” They added, lest there be any confusion, “our corporate principles of diversity and inclusion are the right thing to do. Beyond that, however, such policies contribute to … significant returns for our shareholders and owners.”

The Second Defeat of Bernie Sanders
By Ross Douthat

The fact that corporations are “outdistancing” even politicians, as Crenshaw puts it, in paying fealty to anti-racism is perhaps the tell. It’s not that corporate America is suddenly deeply committed to racial equality; even for woke capital, the capitalism comes first. Rather, it’s that anti-racism as a cultural curriculum, a rhetoric of re-education, is relatively easy to fold into the mechanisms of managerialism, under the tutelage of the human resources department. The idea that you need to retrain your employees so that they can work together without microaggressing isn’t Marxism, cultural or otherwise; it’s just a novel form of Fordism, with white-fragility gurus in place of efficiency experts.

In our cultural institutions, too, the official enthusiasm for the current radical mood is suggestive of the revolution’s limits. The tumult and protest is obviously a threat to certain people’s jobs: The revolutionaries need scapegoats, examples, wrongthinkers to cast out pour encourager les autres, superannuated figures to retire with prejudice. But they aren’t out to dissolve Harvard or break up Google or close The New York Times; they’re out to rule these institutions, with more enlightenment than the old guard but the same fundamental powers. And many of the changes the protesters seek are ones that the establishment can happily accommodate: I can promise that few powerful people will feel particularly threatened if the purge of Confederate monuments widens and some statues of pre-World War II presidents and Franciscan missionaries come crashing down as well. (Though renaming Yale might be another matter …)

So the likely endgame of all this turbulence is the redistribution of elite jobs, the upward circulation of the more racially diverse younger generation, the abolition of perceived impediments to the management of elite diversity (adieu, SAT) and the inculcation of a new elite language whose academic style will delineate the professional class more decisively from the unenlightened proles below. (With the possible long-run consequence that not only the white working class but also some minority voters will drift toward whatever remains of political conservatism once Trump is finished with it.)

Yes, serious critics of structural racism have an agenda for economic as well as cultural reform. But that agenda isn’t what’s being advanced: Chuck Schumer will take a knee in kente cloth, but he isn’t likely to pass a major reparations bill, the white liberals buying up the works of Ibram X. Kendi aren’t going to abandon private schools or bus their kids to minority neighborhoods. And in five years, it’s more likely that 2020’s legacy will be a cadre of permanently empowered commissars getting people fired for unwise Twitter likes rather than any dramatic interracial wealth redistribution.

David Shor’s Unified Theory of American Politics
By Eric Levitz

We’ve been talking a lot about the education split among white voters. But the polling results you just referenced from South Africa suggest that education-based splits on cosmopolitanism manifest across racial and ethnic lines. Are Democrats losing ground with nonwhite, non-college-educated voters?

Yeah. Black voters trended Republican in 2016. Hispanic voters also trended right in battleground states. In 2018, I think it’s absolutely clear that, relative to the rest of the country, nonwhite voters trended Republican. In Florida, Democratic senator Bill Nelson did 2 or 3 points better than Clinton among white voters but lost because he did considerably worse than her among Black and Hispanic voters. We’re seeing this in 2020 polling, too. I think there’s a lot of denial about this fact.

I don’t think there are obvious answers as to why this is happening. But non-college-educated white voters and non-college-educated nonwhite voters have a lot in common with each other culturally. So as the salience of cultural issues with strong education-based splits increases — whether it’s gender politics or authoritarianism or immigration — it would make sense that we’d see some convergence between non-college-educated voters across racial lines.

American politics used to be very idiosyncratic, because we have this historical legacy of slavery and Jim Crow and all of these things that don’t have clear foreign analogues. But the world is slowly changing — not changing in ways that make racism go away or not matter — but in ways that erode some of the underpinnings of race-based voting. So if you look at Black voters trending against us, it’s not uniform. It’s specifically young, secular Black voters who are voting more Republican than their demographic used to. And the ostensible reason for this is the weakening of the Black church, which had, for historical reasons, occupied a really central place in Black society and helped anchor African-Americans in the Democratic Party. Among Black voters, one of the biggest predictors for voting Republican is not attending church. So I think you can tell this story about how the America-centric aspects of our politics are starting to decay, and we’re converging on the dynamics that you see in Europe, where nonwhite voters are more left wing than white voters, but where they vote for the left by like 65 to 35 percent, rather than the 90-10 split you see with African-Americans.

To be clear, if that happens, it would take a long time. But if I had to guess, I’d say young African-Americans might trend 4 or 5 percent against us in relative terms. But they’re a small percent of the Black electorate. These are slow-moving trends.

Our Educational Colonialism
By Chris Arnade

Federalization is about imposing a dominant ideology and worldview, and in the case of our educational policy it is about imposing “front rowness”— the idea that everyone should aspire to becoming a tenured professor or a widget engaged in a resume arms race with the rest of the world.

It is a system built by intellectual elites who want everyone to be like them, and humiliates everyone else. It is a system that says anything that can’t be learned in an advanced placement class isn’t that important, like being a good member of the community, or family, or church. Those things are impediments to success. Staying home to care for your parents rather than rushing off to Princeton is an unnecessary speed bump on your way to having your best career!

Those who fundamentally don’t buy into this ideology, which is most of the working class, end up sitting in the back row of whatever school, distracted and frustrated. Throwing spitballs at whoever because they don’t take easily to set theory, or Algebra, or Henry James or Nathaniel Hawthorne. Because they don’t enjoy memorizing whatever they have to memorize for the next standardized test.

They are kids who just want to learn a skill to get a job. Because they are really good with their hands and good with tinkering, always have been. Or they are really good with animals, or good at getting stuff to grow, or they have ‘always been good at caring for people, noticing when someone is a little off and need to be checked on. Like, I always been good that way, especially with my Grandma, who shines up when she sees me come to play checkers. So maybe I will go into nursing you know. But I keep getting D’s in math and history, but if I can get over that hurdle, I sure would love to be a nurse.’

What we need is an educational system that values these kids’ particular world view, their particular skill set, their particular interests, and encourages and trains them in it. The back row kids who are not great at test taking and who don’t really want to go to college. So they can stay close to their parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, and eventually make a decent enough wage to buy a Tundra, a home, start a family, go to church, and eventually host the weekly backyard get togethers their cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, friends come to. All without being sneered at as a dumb, uncurious, closed-minded provincial hick or hoodlum, because Shakespeare ain’t their thing.

The Cost of California’s Woke Culture
By Joel Kotkin

San Francisco, the epicenter of California’s woke culture, has the worst scores for black students of any county statewide. Yet educators, particularly in minority districts, often seem more interested in political indoctrination than in improving scholastic results. Half of California’s high school students can barely read, but the educational establishment has implemented ethnic-studies courses designed to promote a progressive, even anticapitalist, and race-centered agenda. Unless the education system changes, California’s black and Hispanic students face an uncertain future. A woke consciousness or deeper ethnic identification won’t lead to successful careers. One can’t operate a high-tech lathe, manage logistics, or engineer space programs with ideology.

Andrew Sullivan: China Is a Genocidal Menace
By Andrew Sullivan

Leading progressive maternity and doula organizations now deploy and encourage a whole array of “gender-neutral language” with respect to sex, birth, labor, and parenting. And so we now have the terms “chest-feeding,” “persons who menstruate,” “persons who produce sperm,” and “birthing person” for breastfeeding, women, men, and mothers, respectively. And instead of a butthole, we have a “back-hole”; instead of a vagina, we have a “front hole.” “Ovaries” and “uterus” are now rendered as “internal organs,” which may strike you as somewhat vague. These may sound completely absurd now, but given the choke hold critical gender theory has on almost all elite organizations, you can be sure you’ll hear them soon enough. They’ll likely be mandatory if you want to prove you’re not a transphobe. It was an objection to one of these terms — “people who menstruate” — that got J.K. Rowling tarred again as a bigot.

Those of us who oppose this abuse of the English language, who try to abide by Orwell’s dictum to use the simplest, clearest Anglo-Saxon words to describe reality, are now instantly suspect. Given the fear of losing your job for resisting this madness, most people will submit to this linguistic distortion. As you can see everywhere, the stigma of being called a bigot sweeps away all objects before it. But the further this goes — and there is no limiting principle in critical theory at all — the less able we are to describe reality. Which is, of course, the point. Narratives, only narratives, exist. And power, only power, matters.

On Wokeness and Power
By Eboo Patel

Kang writes:

Those of us who think, write and talk about race for a living, crafting provocative deconstructions of power and privilege, have always associated ourselves with some vaguely defined insurgency against a racist reality; regardless of where we work, whether at Harvard or at The New York Times, we locate ourselves first through our identities, and only then through our work and the financial freedoms it affords. But as I read a recent column in the Los Angeles Times about Yang’s meeting, I was struck by something. I knew almost everyone involved, including the column’s author, Frank Shyong, a dear friend. And it seemed to me that there wasn’t a single observer, especially among Asian-Americans, who wouldn’t see most of the people there as the insiders — professionals with enviable educations who use their influence to push ideas about identity derived, in large part, from the cultural-studies programs of elite universities.

The most interesting insight, for me: that talking about identity in terms of power, privilege and oppression is no longer the woke insurgency, but rather the cultural establishment. If you talk in this way, you are not showing your subaltern stripes — you are flashing the badge of insider dominance. The badge of power.

What are the implications of this? Kang notes at least one:

many people might be coming to see the self-appointed arbiters of racial politics, and the candidates working to satisfy them, as the establishment. Those people will be happy to see anyone willing to break from our rigid prescriptions.

But there are others as well. What if the people who speak in the language of identity politics were to recognize that their framework was the culturally dominant one? The one that helped you get into an elite college or win a coveted internship? If you spoke that language, you were working with dollars in a world of people who earned only rupees, or some other less valuable currency.

Is ‘Latinx’ elitist? Some push back at the word’s growing use
By Stephen Nuño-Pérez and Gwen Aviles

The gender-neutral “Latinx” is becoming the preferred term over “Latino” or “Latina” in some circles — but Hispanic-Americans are debating among themselves about whether it should be.

Pronounced “Lah-teen-EX,” the term has emerged among younger and more progressive Hispanics — as well as scholars, writers and civil rights advocates — to express inclusiveness and recognize the sexual, ethnic and racial diversity of Hispanics.Unlike “Latino” or “Latina,” the term does not refer to any specific gender.

The University of California, San Diego, recently announced that it would use Latinx to replace the gender-specific terms Latino and Chicano when referring to those groups. Other universities have already made the change.

But as the term gains traction, some scholars are pointing out that there are Latinos who don’t see themselves reflected in the word. Some see Latinx as an elitist attempt to erase a history of more traditional gender roles, or as a distraction from other pressing issues facing Latinos in the United States.

“I am just a few miles from the Mexican border. If I were going down to the local taquería, they wouldn’t know what you are saying if you used the term,” said David Bowles, an author and assistant professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Though he is a proponent of using “Latinx,” Bowles said it’s mainly used among his Mexican-American and Chicano studies colleagues, LGBTQ activists and authors of color.

Motecuzoma Sanchez, a political activist in Stockton, CA who works in community advocacy, police and government accountability, and is the founder of a local organization that focuses on literacy called Semillas (seeds), views Latinx as a “fashionable identity” adopted by elite Latinos to address an issue he doesn’t see as crucial in his community.

Latinos “still struggle with educational advancement, incarceration, teenage pregnancy, police brutality, predatory bank practices, discrimination, crime and violence, low literacy, immigration and labor exploitation, diabetes, etc., but suddenly gender nouns are the priority,” Sanchez said.

‘Hamilton’ Loses Its Snob Appeal
By Rob Henderson

Once something becomes fashionable among the upper class, aspiring elites know they must go along to have any hope of joining the higher ranks. But once it becomes fashionable among the hoi polloi, the elites update their tastes.

The upper classes are driven to distinguish themselves from the little people even beyond art. This explains the ever-evolving standards of wokeness. To become acculturated into the elite requires knowing the habits, customs and manners of the upper class. Ideological purity tests now exist to indicate social class and block upward social mobility. Your opinion about social issues is the new powdered wig. In universities and in professional jobs, political correctness is a weapon used by white-collar professionals to weed out those who didn’t marinate in elite mores.

These are luxury beliefs—or ideas and opinions that confer status on the upper class while taking a toll on lower class. They are evolving so rapidly, it’s hard to keep up. To stay on top of it, you need to have lots of free time or the kind of job that allows you to spend hours on Twitter. Working-class people don’t have time to accrue such cultural capital.

To understand the neologisms and practices of social justice, you need a bachelor’s degree from an expensive college. A common refrain to those who are not fully up to date on the latest fashions is “Educate yourself.” This is a way of keeping down people who work multiple jobs, have children to care for, and don’t have the time or means to read the latest woke bestseller.

The Fight to Redefine Racism
By Kelefa Sanne

DiAngelo, the author of “White Fragility,” is unapologetically interested in people, particularly white people. She is perhaps the country’s most visible expert in anti-bias training, a practice that is also an industry, and from all appearances a prospering one. (Last year, anti-bias training was in the headlines when Starbucks closed its American stores for a day to conduct a company-wide lesson in “racial bias and discrimination.”) DiAngelo has been helping to lead workplace seminars since the nineties, and she has encountered some resistance. “When we try to talk openly and honestly about race,” she writes, “we are so often met with silence, defensiveness, argumentation, certitude, and other forms of pushback.” To explain this phenomenon, she coined the phrase “white fragility.”

DiAngelo holds a Ph.D. in multicultural education, but her most important credential is all the time she has spent in conference rooms. Where Kendi insists that racism can cloud anyone’s judgment, DiAngelo sees white people as singularly responsible. “Only whites have the collective social and institutional power and privilege over people of color,” she writes. She is unimpressed by white participants who swear they “treat everyone the same,” since that’s not possible. And she is alert to acts of racial transgression, as when a white woman uses what DiAngelo considers a “stereotypical” voice while telling an anecdote about an African-American. She thanks the woman for her “insight,” and then asks her to “consider not telling that story in that way again.” When the woman tries to defend herself, DiAngelo interrupts, speaking in the friendly but steely voice of administrative authority. “I am offering you a teachable moment,” she says.

Despite her sensitivity to racial power dynamics and to the reality of racial harassment, DiAngelo seems to have little interest in other workplace power dynamics, which might explain why she’s so surprised that many of the employees who attend her sessions aren’t happier to see her. DiAngelo is devoted to “challenging injustice,” but her corporate clients doubtless have their own priorities, and in any case it’s not clear what the effect of these seminars is. A group of social scientists has come up with the concept of “implicit bias,” which many trainers aim to diagnose and treat, even though there is scant evidence that implicit bias reliably affects behavior. DiAngelo mentions implicit bias, but, even more than Kendi, she is engaged in something that resembles a spiritual practice. In the sanctuaries she creates, one of the rules is that white people, especially white women, should not cry. It attracts too much attention, and it may upset nonwhite participants, by evoking the “long historical backdrop of black men being tortured and murdered because of a white woman’s distress.” If DiAngelo herself can’t resist, she performs a ritual of abnegation. “I try to cry quietly so that I don’t take up more space,” she writes, “and if people rush to comfort me, I do not accept the comfort.”

If there is scripture in DiAngelo’s world, it is the testimony of “people of color,” a term that usefully reduces all of humanity to two categories: white and other. Since white people are presumed to have “institutional power,” and therefore institutional responsibility, people of color function in this world as sages, speaking truths that white people must cherish, and not challenge. DiAngelo has sometimes received “feedback from people of color on my racist patterns and assumptions,” which she first found uncomfortable but eventually, as she grew more enlightened, came to find encouraging. “There is no way for me to avoid enacting problematic patterns,” DiAngelo writes, “so if a person of color trusts me enough to take the risk and tell me, then I am doing well.”

Once, when she offended a black client by referring to another black woman’s hair, DiAngelo discussed the incident with another white person (so as not to burden any other people of color), and then apologized to the offended party. She was forgiven her trespasses, but says she was prepared not to be. When you get feedback, especially from a person of color, what’s most important is to be grateful, and to try to do better. “Racism is complex,” she writes, “and I don’t have to understand every nuance of the feedback to validate that feedback.”

Unlike Kendi, who boldly defines racism, DiAngelo is endlessly deferential—for her, racism is basically whatever any person of color thinks it is. In the story she tells about the world, she and her fellow white people have all the power, and therefore all the responsibility to do the gruelling but transformative spiritual work she calls for. The story makes white people seem like flawed, complicated characters; by comparison, people of color seem good, wise, and perhaps rather simple. This narrative may be appealing to its target audience, but it doesn’t seem to offer much to anyone else. At least, that’s my interpretation, and perhaps DiAngelo will be grateful to hear it. After all, I am what she would call a person of color, and whatever I write surely counts as “feedback.” Maybe that means she is, indeed, doing well.

Part of what makes DiAngelo’s project surreal is the difference in scale between the historical injustices she invokes and the contemporary slights she addresses: on one side, the indescribable horror of lynching; on the other, careless crying.

The Dehumanizing Condescension of ‘White Fragility’
By John McWhorter

If you object to any of the “feedback” that DiAngelo offers you about your racism, you are engaging in a type of bullying “whose function is to obscure racism, protect white dominance, and regain white equilibrium.”

That is a pretty strong charge to make against people who, according to DiAngelo, don’t even conceive of their own whiteness. But if you are white, make no mistake: You will never succeed in the “work” she demands of you. It is lifelong, and you will die a racist just as you will die a sinner.

Remember also that you are not to express yourself except to say Amen. Namely, thou shalt not utter:

I know people of color.

I marched in the sixties.

You are judging me.

You don’t know me.

You are generalizing.

I disagree.

The real oppression is class.

I just said one little innocent thing.

Some people find offense where there is none.

You hurt my feelings.

I can’t say anything right.

This is an abridgment of a list DiAngelo offers in Chapter 9; its result is to silence people. Whites aren’t even allowed to say, “I don’t feel safe.” Only Black people can say that. If you are white, you are solely to listen as DiAngelo tars you as morally stained. “Now breathe,” she counsels to keep you relaxed as you undergo this. She does stress that she is not dealing with a good/bad dichotomy and that your inner racist does not make you a bad person. But with racism limned as such a gruesome spiritual pollution, harbored by individuals moreover entrapped in a society within which they exert racism merely by getting out of bed, the issue of gray zones seems beside the point. By the end, DiAngelo has white Americans muzzled, straitjacketed, tied down, and chloroformed for good measure—but for what?

Exiting the Vampire Castle
By Mark Fisher

The Vampires’ Castle specialises in propagating guilt. It is driven by a priest’s desire to excommunicate and condemn, an academic-pedant’s desire to be the first to be seen to spot a mistake, and a hipster’s desire to be one of the in-crowd. The danger in attacking the Vampires’ Castle is that it can look as if – and it will do everything it can to reinforce this thought – that one is also attacking the struggles against racism, sexism, heterosexism. But, far from being the only legitimate expression of such struggles, the Vampires’ Castle is best understood as a bourgeois-liberal perversion and appropriation of the energy of these movements. The Vampires’ Castle was born the moment when the struggle not to be defined by identitarian categories became the quest to have ‘identities’ recognised by a bourgeois big Other.

The privilege I certainly enjoy as a white male consists in part in my not being aware of my ethnicity and my gender, and it is a sobering and revelatory experience to occasionally be made aware of these blind-spots. But, rather than seeking a world in which everyone achieves freedom from identitarian classification, the Vampires’ Castle seeks to corral people back into identi-camps, where they are forever defined in the terms set by dominant power, crippled by self-consciousness and isolated by a logic of solipsism which insists that we cannot understand one another unless we belong to the same identity group.

I’ve noticed a fascinating magical inversion projection-disavowal mechanism whereby the sheer mention of class is now automatically treated as if that means one is trying to downgrade the importance of race and gender. In fact, the exact opposite is the case, as the Vampires’ Castle uses an ultimately liberal understanding of race and gender to obfuscate class. In all of the absurd and traumatic twitterstorms about privilege earlier this year it was noticeable that the discussion of class privilege was entirely absent. The task, as ever, remains the articulation of class, gender and race – but the founding move of the Vampires’ Castle is the dis-articulation of class from other categories.

The problem that the Vampires’ Castle was set up to solve is this: how do you hold immense wealth and power while also appearing as a victim, marginal and oppositional? The solution was already there – in the Christian Church. So the VC has recourse to all the infernal strategies, dark pathologies and psychological torture instruments Christianity invented, and which Nietzsche described in The Genealogy of Morals. This priesthood of bad conscience, this nest of pious guilt-mongers, is exactly what Nietzsche predicted when he said that something worse than Christianity was already on the way. Now, here it is …

The Vampires’ Castle feeds on the energy and anxieties and vulnerabilities of young students, but most of all it lives by converting the suffering of particular groups – the more ‘marginal’ the better – into academic capital. The most lauded figures in the Vampires’ Castle are those who have spotted a new market in suffering – those who can find a group more oppressed and subjugated than any previously exploited will find themselves promoted through the ranks very quickly.

The Religious Roots of a New Progressive Era
By Ross Douthat

… Bottum stresses that it’s more useful to think of the post-Protestants — the “poster children,” he sometimes calls them — as an elect rather than an elite, defined more by their education and their moral sensibility than by their overt wealth or power. They are not identical to the managerial elite discerned by other theorists of late-modern class hierarchy; instead, they stand adjacent and somewhat underneath, as adjuncts, consultants, bureaucrats and activists — advisers and petitioners and critics rather than formal leaders, with more economic precarity and moral zeal than those they criticize or serve.

This point, too, is particularly useful to understanding the new power struggle within the liberal upper class. In theological terms, we’re watching the post-Protestant elect wrestle power away from the more secular elite, which long paid lip service to the creed of social justice but never really evinced true faith.

And that power, once claimed, could be used the way the old Mainline used its power: not to replace liberal political forms but to infuse them with a specific set of moral commitments and to establish the terms on which important cultural debates are held and settled. Who should have sex with whom, and under what conditions and constraints? Which religious ideas should be favored, and which dismissed with prejudice? What conceptions of the country’s past should be promoted? Which visions of the good life taught in schools? What titles or pronouns should respectable people use? Just as the old denominations once answered these questions for Americans, their post-Protestant heirs aspire to answer them today.

If they succeed where the religious right failed, it will be because post-Protestantism enjoys an intimate relationship with the American establishment rather than representing an insurgency of outsider groups, because centrist failures and Trumpian moral squalor removed rivals from its path, and because its moral message is better suited to what younger Americans already believe.

How the Media Led the Great Racial Awakening
By Zach Goldberg

Starting well before Donald Trump’s rise to power, while President Obama was still in office, terms like “microaggression” and “white privilege” were picked up by liberal journalists. These terms went from being obscure fragments of academic jargon to commonplace journalistic language in only a few years—a process that I document here in detail. During this same period, while exotic new phrases were entering the discourse, universally recognizable words like “racism” were being radically redefined. Along with the new language came ideas and beliefs animating a new moral-political framework to apply to public life and American society.

In the absence of legal discrimination, in the post-affirmative-action era, and in light of the immense absolute improvements in the quality of life of the average Black person over the past half century, concepts like “microaggression” and “implicit bias” have been critical in cultivating the perception, amplified by the media, that America still practices a form of insidious racial apartheid. This occurs by a process of concept creep—a stretching of the terminological and normative boundaries of what constitutes racism and racist behavior. In other words: The racialization of things that weren’t previously viewed or understood through the lens of race. The upshot is that the more aspects of social life the media racializes, the more “racism” there is for the media to report on.

In 2011, just 35% of white liberals thought racism in the United States was “a big problem,” according to national polling. By 2015, this figure had ballooned to 61% and further still to 77% in 2017.

In December of 2006, 45% of white Democrats and 41% of white Republicans reported that they knew someone they considered racist. By June of 2015, this figure increased to 64% among white Democrats, while remaining at a steady 41% among white Republicans. No increases were observed for any of the nonwhite Democrat groups. In fact, what (statistically insignificant) change occurred among Black (52.7% to 47.2%) and Hispanic (41.1% to 33.8%) Democrats were actually in the opposite direction.

Did white Democrats simply come to know more racists in these years? It’s possible, but if so that would indicate that the media’s increased reporting on racism actually correlated to a marked increase in racists being detected by white Democrats.

One possible way of explaining these statistics, is that America experienced an explosion of racism over the past decade and white liberals are uniquely reflective of that change. But another possibility, perhaps more likely, is that ascendant progressive notions about race reflected in a steady drumbeat of reporting and editorializing on the subject from leading national media outlets, encouraged white liberals to label a larger number of behaviors and people as racist. In other words, while the world may have stayed more or less the same, elite liberal media and its readership—especially its white liberal readership—underwent a profound change.

There is a body of social science research arguing that shifts in race-related media coverage have a causal effect on racial attitudes. For instance, political scientist Paul Kellstedt has provided evidence showing that shifts in racial attitudes follow shifts in race-related news content. But, while building on Kellstedt’s findings, my own research suggests that not all demographics are equally or even similarly responsive to such media trends. Specifically, I find that the causal effects of race-related media coverage are strongest for white Democrats and liberals, weaker for nonwhite Democrats and liberals, and are largely nonexistent for white Republicans and conservatives. This differential effect is partly due to ideological differences in understandings of racial inequality, which influences how white liberals and conservatives respond (particularly in the moral-emotional sense) to related information.

The agenda-setting and issue-framing powers that social media platforms like Twitter have provided to progressive activists appears to be a central driver of both the shifts in white liberals’ racial attitudes and the transformations within traditional media. Even the most powerful and storied names in newspaper publishing are increasingly responsive to and influenced by political sentiments percolating on social media, where all manner of racialist ideology thrives.

The idea of “concept creep” originates with Nick Haslam, a professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne, Australia. In a research paper published in 2016, “Concept creep: Psychology’s expanding concepts of harm and pathology,” Haslam posits that: “Concepts that refer to the negative aspects of human experience and behavior have expanded their meanings so that they now encompass a much broader range of phenomena.” This expansion, according to Haslam, “primarily reflects an ever-increasing sensitivity to harm, reflecting a liberal moral agenda.”

One of the primary drivers behind the conceptual creep around racism is the idea that all observed disparities between different groups in a society are a product of bias. This view as well as its policy implications for any institution that takes it seriously are captured succinctly by one of the most influential voices in the racial consciousness industry, Atlantic magazine writer and author Ibram X. Kendi. In a line from his book Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi writes: “We have a hard time recognizing that racial discrimination is the sole cause of racial disparities in this country and in the world at large … When you truly believe that racial groups are equal, then you also believe that racial disparities must be the result of racial discrimination.” Kendi is saying that any evidence of uneven outcomes between groups—for example, Black people being underrepresented in a particular profession relative to other groups and their share of the overall population—is necessarily evidence of racism that should be remedied by discriminating against the non-Black groups. Yet this reasoning is intuitively appealing only when (in addition to ignoring the various nonwhite groups that outperform whites) it utilizes the very same racial categories that those like Kendi rightfully criticize for being arbitrarily or socially constructed (if statistically and politically convenient).

When one disaggregates “whites” into different ancestral groups, the disparities between many of them are unmistakable. For instance, and for what is likely a host of different reasons, there is a great deal of between-group variance in higher-degree attainment among American-born whites of single European ancestry. According to data from the 2017 American Community Survey, roughly 50% of those reporting single Russian ancestry have bachelor’s degrees or more, while this is true of only 27% of those of French and 18% of those of Portuguese ancestry, respectively. To put this into perspective, these gaps are double and nearly triple the size, respectively, of the degree-attainment gap between aggregate Blacks (16.2%) and whites (27.2%). Would Kendi insist that this, too, is dispositive proof of discrimination?

For those who adopt this singular focus on race, a racialized view of the world becomes baseline test of political loyalty. It requires adherents to overlook the immense diversity among so-called “People of Color” and “People Not-of-Color” (i.e., whoever is being lumped together as “white” according to the prevailing ideological fashion). In doing so, it has made stereotypes socially acceptable, if not laudable.

AP says it will capitalize Black but not white
By David Bauder

After changing its usage rules last month to capitalize the word “Black” when used in the context of race and culture, The Associated Press on Monday said it would not do the same for “white.”

The AP said white people in general have much less shared history and culture, and don’t have the experience of being discriminated against because of skin color.

Protests following the death of George Floyd, which led to discussions of policing and Confederate symbols, also prompted many news organizations to examine their own practices and staffing. The Associated Press, whose Stylebook is widely influential in the industry, announced June 19 it would make Black uppercase.

In some ways, the decision over “white” has been more ticklish. The National Association of Black Journalists and some Black scholars have said white should be capitalized, too.

“We agree that white people’s skin color plays into systemic inequalities and injustices, and we want our journalism to robustly explore these problems,” John Daniszewski, the AP’s vice president for standards, said in a memo to staff Monday. “But capitalizing the term white, as is done by white supremacists, risks subtly conveying legitimacy to such beliefs.”

Columbia Journalism Review, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, NBC News and Chicago Tribune are among the organizations that have recently said they would capitalize Black but have not done so for white.

“White doesn’t represent a shared culture and history in the way Black does,” The New York Times said on July 5 in explaining its decision.

The Cascading Complexity Of Diversity
By Andrew Sullivan

In a fascinating series of tweets, and a memo, the News Guild of New York — the union that represents 1200 New York Times employees — recently set out its goals for the newspaper, especially with respect to its employees of color. Money quote: “Our workforce should reflect our home. The Times should set a goal to have its workforce demographics reflect the make-up of the city — 24 percent Black, and over 50 percent people of color — by 2025.” It also recommends “sensitivity reads” at the beginning of any story process, and wants a pipeline for jobs with a minimum of 50 percent people of color at every stage of recruitment.

Around 10 percent of staffers would have to be Republicans (and if the paper of record nationally were to reflect the country as a whole, and not just NYC, around 40 percent would have to be). Some 6 percent of the newsroom would also have to be Haredi or Orthodox Jews — a community you rarely hear about in diversity debates, but one horribly hit by a hate crime surge. 48 percent of NYT employees would have to agree that religion is “very important” in their lives; and 33 percent would be Catholic. And the logic of these demographic quotas is that if a group begins to exceed its quota — say Jews, 13 percent — a Jewish journalist would have to retire for any new one to be hired. Taking this proposal seriously, then, really does require explicit use of race in hiring, which is illegal, which is why the News Guild tweet and memo might end up causing some trouble if the policy is enforced.

And all this leaves the category of “white” completely without nuance. We have no idea whether “white” people are Irish or Italian or Russian or Polish or Canadians in origin. Similarly, we do not know if “black” means African immigrants, or native black New Yorkers, or people from the Caribbean. 37 percent of New Yorkers are foreign-born. How does the Guild propose to mirror that? Ditto where staffers live in NYC. How many are from Staten Island, for example, or the Bronx, two places of extremely different ethnic populations? These categories, in other words, are incredibly crude if the goal really is to reflect the actual demographics of New York City. But it isn’t, of course.

And that’s true of other institutions too: are we to police Broadway to make sure that gays constitute only 4 percent of the employees? Or, say, nursing, to ensure that the sex balance is 50-50? Or a construction company for gender parity? Or a bike messenger company’s staff to be reflective of the age demographics of the city? Just take publishing — an industry not far off what the New York Times does. 74 percent of its employees are women. Should there be a hiring freeze until the men catch up?

The more you think about it, the more absurdly utopian the Kendi project turns out to be. That’s because its core assumption is that any demographic discrepancies between a profession or institution and its locale are entirely a function of oppression. That’s how Kendi explains racial inequality in America, and specifically denies any alternative explanation. So how is it that a white supremacist country has whites earning considerably less on average than Asian-Americans? How does Kendi explain the fact that the most successful minority group in America are Indian-Americans — with a median income nearly twice that of the national median? Here’s a partial list of the national origins of US citizens whose median earnings are higher than that of white people in America: Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Pakistani, Iranian, Lebanese, Sri Lankan, Armenian, Hmong, Vietnamese. One group earning less: British-American.

It’s true, of course, that historical injustices have deeply hurt African-Americans in particular in hobbling opportunity, which is why African-Americans who are descendants of slaves should be treated as an entirely separate case from all other racial categories. No other group has experienced anything like the toll of slavery, segregation and brutality that African-Americans have. This discrimination was enforced by the state and so the state has an obligation to make things right.

But it is absurd to argue that racism is the sole reason for every racial difference in outcome in the extraordinarily diverse and constantly shifting racial demographics of New York City or the US. And it’s ludicrously reductionist to argue that oppression is the exclusive cause of differing outcomes for various groups, including women. America is too complex to be fit into these tidy, unifactorial boxes. It has far too many unpredictable individuals, defying odds, redefining identity, combining races and cultures, exercising agency, and complicating every simple narrative you want to impose on it. In fact, to reduce all this complexity to a quick, crude check of race and sex to identify your fellow American is a kind of new racism itself. It has taken off because we find it so easy to slip back into crude generalizations.

On “White Fragility”
By Matt Taibbi

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.

If your category is “white,” bad news: you have no identity apart from your participation in white supremacy (“Anti-blackness is foundational to our very identities… Whiteness has always been predicated on blackness”), which naturally means “a positive white identity is an impossible goal.”

DiAngelo instructs us there is nothing to be done here, except “strive to be less white.” To deny this theory, or to have the effrontery to sneak away from the tedium of DiAngelo’s lecturing – what she describes as “leaving the stress-inducing situation” – is to affirm her conception of white supremacy. This academic equivalent of the “ordeal by water” (if you float, you’re a witch) is orthodoxy across much of academia.

This dingbat racialist cult, which has no art, music, literature, and certainly no comedy, is the vision of “progress” institutional America has chosen to endorse in the Trump era. Why? Maybe because it fits. It won’t hurt the business model of the news media, which for decades now has been monetizing division and has known how to profit from moral panics and witch hunts since before Fleet street discovered the Mod/Rocker wars.

Democratic Party leaders, pioneers of the costless gesture, have already embraced this performative race politics as a useful tool for disciplining apostates like Bernie Sanders. Bernie took off in presidential politics as a hard-charging crusader against a Wall Street-fattened political establishment, and exited four years later a self-flagellating, defeated old white man who seemed to regret not apologizing more for his third house. Clad in kente cloth scarves, the Democrats who crushed him will burn up CSPAN with homilies on privilege even as they reassure donors they’ll stay away from Medicare for All or the carried interest tax break.

For corporate America the calculation is simple. What’s easier, giving up business models based on war, slave labor, and regulatory arbitrage, or benching Aunt Jemima? There’s a deal to be made here, greased by the fact that the “antiracism” prophets promoted in books like White Fragility share corporate Americas instinctive hostility to privacy, individual rights, freedom of speech, etc.

Corporate America doubtless views the current protest movement as something that can be addressed as an H.R. matter, among other things by hiring thousands of DiAngelos to institute codes for the proper mode of Black-white workplace interaction.

One of the central tenets of DiAngelo’s book (and others like it) is that racism cannot be eradicated and can only be managed through constant, “lifelong” vigilance, much like the battle with addiction. A useful theory, if your business is selling teams of high-priced toxicity-hunters to corporations as next-generation versions of efficiency experts — in the fight against this disease, companies will need the help forever and ever.

‘White Fragility’ Is Everywhere. But Does Anti-Bias Training Work?
By Daniel Bergner

Demand has recently spiked throughout the field, though the clamor had already been building, particularly since the election of Donald Trump. Glenn E. Singleton, a Black trainer whose firm, Courageous Conversation, has been giving workshops for over two decades, saw a 105 percent rise in business between November 2016 and February 2020. Bookings plummeted because of Covid-19, and then, with the Floyd protests, he said, he experienced “extraordinary” demand. Darnisa Amante-Jackson, another important Black voice in the sector, started the Disruptive Equity Education Project four years ago and was hired by school districts and charter-school networks in 15 states. She is now receiving a new level of interest, especially from corporations “eager,” she said in June, “to be authentic to the B.L.M. messaging they’re putting out.” As their teaching becomes more and more widespread, antiracism educators are shaping the language that gets spoken — and the lessons being learned — about race in America.

Last July, in San Francisco, I attended three of DiAngelo’s sessions. “I wasn’t raised to see my race as saying anything relevant about me,” she declared to a largely white crowd in the Mission district’s 360-seat Brava Theater. Her audience had paid between $65 and $160 per ticket to hear her speak for three and a half hours. The place was sold out. “I will not coddle your comfort,” she went on. She gestured crisply with her hands. “I’m going to name and admit to things white people rarely name and admit.” Scattered Black listeners called out encouragement. Then she specified the predominant demographic in the packed house: white progressives. “I know you. Oh, white progressives are my specialty. Because I am a white progressive.” She paced tightly on the stage. “And I have a racist worldview.”

Borrowing from feminist scholarship and critical race theory, whiteness studies challenges the very nature of knowledge, asking whether what we define as scientific research and scholarly rigor, and what we venerate as objectivity, can be ways of excluding alternate perspectives and preserving white dominance. DiAngelo likes to ask, paraphrasing the philosopher Lorraine Code: “From whose subjectivity does the ideal of objectivity come?”

DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” article was, in a sense, an epistemological exercise. It examined white not-knowing. When it was published in 2011 in The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, it reached the publication’s niche audience. But three years later it was quoted in Seattle’s alternative newspaper The Stranger, during a fierce debate — with white defensiveness on full view — about the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s casting of white actors as Asians in a production of “The Mikado.” “That changed my life,” she said. The phrase “white fragility” went viral, and requests to speak started to soar; she expanded the article into a book and during the year preceding Covid-19 gave eight to 10 presentations a month, sometimes pro bono but mostly at up to $15,000 per event.

One critique leveled at antiracism training is that it just may not work. Frank Dobbin, a Harvard sociology professor, has published research on attempts, over three decades, to combat bias in over 800 U.S. companies, including a 2016 study with Alexandra Kalev in The Harvard Business Review. (As far back as the early ’60s, he recounts in his book “Inventing Equal Opportunity,” Western Electric, responding to a Kennedy-administration initiative to enhance equity, presented lectures by Kenneth Clark and James Baldwin to company managers.) Dobbin’s research shows that the numbers of women or people of color in management do not increase with most anti-bias education. “There just isn’t much evidence that you can do anything to change either explicit or implicit bias in a half-day session,” Dobbin warns. “Stereotypes are too ingrained.”

When we first talked, and I described DiAngelo’s approach, he said, “I certainly agree with what she’s saying” about our white-supremacist society. But he noted that new research that he’s revising for publication suggests that anti-bias training can backfire, with adverse effects especially on Black people, perhaps, he speculated, because training, whether consciously or subconsciously, “activates stereotypes.” When we spoke again in June, he emphasized an additional finding from his data: the likelihood of backlash “if people feel that they’re being forced to go to diversity training to conform with social norms or laws.”

Donald Green, a professor of political science at Columbia, and Betsy Levy Paluck, a professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton, have analyzed almost 1,000 studies of programs to lessen prejudice, from racism to homophobia, in situations from workplaces to laboratory settings. “We currently do not know whether a wide range of programs and policies tend to work on average,” they concluded in a 2009 paper published in The Annual Review of Psychology, which incorporated measures of attitudes and behaviors. They’ve just refined their analysis, with the help of two Princeton researchers, Chelsey Clark and Roni Porat. “As the study quality goes up,” Paluck told me, “the effect size dwindles.”

DiAngelo gave a presentation, last July, at Levi Strauss & Co.’s corporate headquarters. Here was a chance to glean a hint of whether her consciousness raising might have a meaningful effect within the world as we know it. The event was held in a gleaming space, with a bleached wood floor and brightly painted exposed pipes, a coffee cart and billboards featuring models of various races sporting the company’s denim.

In the aftermath of Floyd’s killing, Levi’s, along with so many other institutions, put out a statement about the “brutal truth” of both American racism and inequality inside its own “house.” The company has booked another two sessions with DiAngelo. Perhaps more encouraging, it has pledged to be transparent about the racial makeup of the company’s leadership. It just posted the data on its website. But less encouraging — despite a diversity program that was started three years ago — are the numbers themselves. Only 2 percent of the company’s top 250 or so positions are filled by Black people, and the executive team and corporate board have no Black people at all, though the company has announced that it will fill its next opening on the board with a Black person. When I checked in with the high-level manager, he described the chief executive as caring earnestly about racial issues but also noted that this spring, during the pandemic, the company furloughed thousands of its low-level — and most diverse — workers, while the company chose to pay out dividends to shareholders, including to the chief executive, a reward of hundreds of thousands of dollars that he chose not to forgo.

Is the Anti-Racism Training Industry Just Peddling White Supremacy?
By Jonathan Chait

Glenn Singleton, president of Courageous Conversation, a racial-sensitivity training firm, tells Bergner that valuing “written communication over other forms” is “a hallmark of whiteness,” as is “scientific, linear thinking. Cause and effect.”

In his profile, Bergner asked DiAngelo how she could reject “rationalism” as a criteria for hiring teachers, on the grounds that it supposedly favors white candidates. Don’t poor children need teachers to impart skills like that so they have a chance to work in a high-paying profession employing reasoning skills?

DiAngelo’s answer seems to imply that she would abolish these high-paying professions altogether:

“Capitalism is so bound up with racism. I avoid critiquing capitalism — I don’t need to give people reasons to dismiss me. But capitalism is dependent on inequality, on an underclass. If the model is profit over everything else, you’re not going to look at your policies to see what is most racially equitable.”

(Presumably DiAngelo’s ideal socialist economy would keep in place at least some well-paid professions — say, “diversity consultant,” which earns her a comfortable seven-figure income.)

Singleton, likewise, proposed evolutionary social changes to the economy that would render it unnecessary to teach writing and linear thought to minority children. Bergner writes:

I asked whether guiding administrators and teachers to put less value, in the classroom, on capacities like written communication and linear thinking might result in leaving Black kids less ready for college and competition in the labor market. “If you hold that white people are always going to be in charge of everything,” he said, “then that makes sense.” He invoked, instead, a journey toward “a new world, a world, first and foremost, where we have elevated the consciousness, where we pay attention to the human being.”

Whether or not a world along these lines will ever exist, or is even possible to design, is at best uncertain. What is unquestionably true is that these revolutionary changes will not be completed within the lifetime of anybody currently alive. Which is to say, a program to deny the value of teaching so-called white values to Black children is to condemn them to poverty. Unsurprisingly, Bergner’s story shows two educators exposed to the program and rebelling against it. One of them, Leslie Chislett, had to endure some ten anti-racism training sessions before eventually snapping at the irrationality of a program that denigrates learning. “The city has tens of millions invested in A.P. for All, so my team can give kids access to A.P. classes and help them prepare for A.P. exams that will help them get college degrees,” she says, “and we’re all supposed to think that writing and data are white values?”

The Real White Fragility
By Ross Douthat

Once you dismiss the SAT as just a tool of white supremacy, then it gets easier for elite schools to justify excluding the Asian-American students whose standardized-test scores keep climbing while white scores stay relatively flat. Or again: If you induce inner-city charter schools to disavow their previous stress on hard work and discipline and meritocratic ambition, because those are racist, too — well, then their minority graduates might become less competitive with your own kids in the college-admissions race as well.

Not that anyone is consciously thinking like this. What I’m describing is a subtle and subconscious current, deep down in the progressive stream.

Census shows white decline, nonwhite majority among youngest
By Mike Schneider

In 2019, a little under 40% of the total U.S. population was either nonwhite or Hispanic. Non-Hispanic whites are expected to be a minority of the U.S. population in about 25 years.

A natural decrease from the number of deaths exceeding births, plus a slowdown in immigration to the U.S., contributed to the population drop since 2010 for non-Hispanic whites, whose median age of 43.7 last year was by far the highest of any demographic group. If these numbers hold for the 2020 census being conducted right now, it will be the first time since the first decennial census in 1790 that there has been a national decline of whites, Frey said.

“It’s aging. Of course, we didn’t have a lot of immigration, that has gone down,” Frey said. “White fertility has gone down.”

In fact, the decrease in births among the white population has led to a dip in the number of people under age 18 in the past decade, a drop exacerbated by the fact that the much larger Millennial cohort has aged out of that group, replaced by a smaller Generation Z.

Over the past decade, Asians had the biggest growth rate of any demographic group, increasing by almost 30%. Almost two-thirds of that growth was driven by international migration.

The Hispanic population grew by 20% since 2010, with almost three-quarters of that growth coming from a natural increase that comes when more people are born than die.

The Black population grew by almost 12% over the decade, and the white population increased by 4.3%.

Yale Accused by U.S. of Bias in Student Admission Picks
By Patricia Hurtado and David Yaffe-Bellany

Yale University illegally discriminates against Asian Americans and White applicants in undergraduate admissions, the Justice Department told the school in a blistering letter that cited a two-year investigation and demanded the college immediately change its process.

Yale violates federal civil rights law by showing bias against applicants based on race and national origin and making those criteria “the determinative factor” in hundreds of admissions decisions each year, the U.S. said in Thursday’s letter, threatening to sue the school by the end of the month if it persists.

Asian American and White people have only one-tenth to one-fourth the chance of being admitted as African Americans with comparable academic credentials, according to the government.

“There is no such thing as a nice form of race discrimination,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in the letter. “Unlawfully dividing Americans into racial and ethnic blocs fosters stereotypes, bitterness and division.”

When the Culture War Comes for the Kids
By George Packer

The battleground of the new progressivism is identity. That’s the historical source of exclusion and injustice that demands redress. In the past five years, identity has set off a burst of exploration and recrimination and creation in every domain, from television to cooking. “Identity is the topic at the absolute center of our conversations about music,” The New York Times Magazine declared in 2017, in the introduction to a special issue consisting of 25 essays on popular songs. “For better or worse, it’s all identity now.”

The school’s progressive pedagogy had fostered a wonderfully intimate sense of each child as a complex individual. But progressive politics meant thinking in groups. When our son was in third or fourth grade, students began to form groups that met to discuss issues based on identity—race, sexuality, disability. I understood the solidarity that could come from these meetings, but I also worried that they might entrench differences that the school, by its very nature, did so much to reduce. Other, less diverse schools in New York, including elite private ones, had taken to dividing their students by race into consciousness-raising “affinity groups.” I knew several mixed-race families that transferred their kids out of one such school because they were put off by the relentless focus on race. Our son and his friends, whose classroom study included slavery and civil rights, hardly ever discussed the subject of race with one another. The school already lived what it taught.

The bathroom crisis hit our school the same year our son took the standardized tests. A girl in second grade had switched to using male pronouns, adopted the initial Q as a first name, and begun dressing in boys’ clothes. Q also used the boys’ bathroom, which led to problems with other boys. Q’s mother spoke to the principal, who, with her staff, looked for an answer. They could have met the very real needs of students like Q by creating a single-stall bathroom—the one in the second-floor clinic would have served the purpose. Instead, the school decided to get rid of boys’ and girls’ bathrooms altogether. If, as the city’s Department of Education now instructed, schools had to allow students to use the bathroom of their self-identified gender, then getting rid of the labels would clear away all the confusion around the bathroom question. A practical problem was solved in conformity with a new idea about identity.

Within two years, almost every bathroom in the school, from kindergarten through fifth grade, had become gender-neutral. Where signs had once said boys and girls, they now said students. Kids would be conditioned to the new norm at such a young age that they would become the first cohort in history for whom gender had nothing to do with whether they sat or stood to pee. All that biology entailed—curiosity, fear, shame, aggression, pubescence, the thing between the legs—was erased or wished away.

The school didn’t inform parents of this sudden end to an age-old custom, as if there were nothing to discuss. Parents only heard about it when children started arriving home desperate to get to the bathroom after holding it in all day. Girls told their parents mortifying stories of having a boy kick open their stall door. Boys described being afraid to use the urinals. Our son reported that his classmates, without any collective decision, had simply gone back to the old system, regardless of the new signage: Boys were using the former boys’ rooms, girls the former girls’ rooms. This return to the familiar was what politicians call a “commonsense solution.” It was also kind of heartbreaking. As children, they didn’t think to challenge the new adult rules, the new adult ideas of justice. Instead, they found a way around this difficulty that the grown-ups had introduced into their lives. It was a quiet plea to be left alone.

When parents found out about the elimination of boys’ and girls’ bathrooms, they showed up en masse at a PTA meeting. The parents in one camp declared that the school had betrayed their trust, and a woman threatened to pull her daughter out of the school. The parents in the other camp argued that gender labels—and not just on the bathroom doors—led to bullying and that the real problem was the patriarchy. One called for the elimination of urinals. It was a minor drama of a major cultural upheaval. The principal, who seemed to care more about the testing opt-out movement than the bathroom issue, explained her financial constraints and urged the formation of a parent-teacher committee to resolve the matter. After six months of stalemate, the Department of Education intervened: One bathroom would be gender-neutral.

In politics, identity is an appeal to authority—the moral authority of the oppressed: I am what I am, which explains my view and makes it the truth. The politics of identity starts out with the universal principles of equality, dignity, and freedom, but in practice it becomes an end in itself—often a dead end, a trap from which there’s no easy escape and maybe no desire for escape. Instead of equality, it sets up a new hierarchy that inverts the old, discredited one—a new moral caste system that ranks people by the oppression of their group identity. It makes race, which is a dubious and sinister social construct, an essence that defines individuals regardless of agency or circumstance—as when Representative Ayanna Pressley said, “We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be a brown voice; we don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice.”

Andrew Sullivan: When the Ideologues Come for the Kids
By Andrew Sullivan

It’s also vital to expose children to the fact of their race as the core constituent of their identity. Here is an essay written by a woke teacher about the difficulty of teaching “White boys”:

I spend a lot of my days worried about White boys. I worry about White boys who barely try and expect to be rewarded, who barely care and can’t stand being called on it, who imagine they can go through school without learning much without it impacting in any way the capacity for their future success, just because it never has before.

This sounds to me as if he is describing, well, boys of any race. And when boys are labeled as “White” (note the capital “W”) and this requires specific rules not applied to nonwhite boys, they often — surprise! — don’t like it:

This week, a student spoke up in class to say that every time a particular writer talked about White people and their role in racism, he would start to feel really guilty, and it made him not want to listen … I try to keep an arm around the boys who most need it, but it’s hard, because I’m also not willing to give an inch on making my room safe for my students of color. It’s not their job to keep hurting while White boys figure it out.

Children, in other words, are being taught to think constantly about race, and to feel guilty if they are the wrong one. And, of course, if they resist, that merely proves the point. A boy who doesn’t think he is personally responsible for racism is merely reflecting “white fragility” which is a function of “white supremacy.” QED. No one seems to have thought through the implications of telling white boys that their core identity is their “whiteness,” or worried that indoctrinating kids into white identity might lead quite a few to, yes, become “white identitarians” of the far right.

One of the key aspects about social-justice theory is that it’s completely unfalsifiable (as well as unreadable); it’s a closed circle that refers only to itself and its own categories. (For a searing take down of this huge academic con, check out Douglas Murray’s superb new book, The Madness of Crowds.) The forces involved — “white supremacy,” “patriarchy,” “heterosexism” — are all invisible to the naked eye, like the Holy Spirit. Their philosophical origins — an attempt by structuralist French philosophers to rescue what was left of Marxism in the 1960s and 1970s — are generally obscured in any practical context. Like religion, you cannot prove any of its doctrines empirically, but children are being forced into believing them anyway. This is hard, of course, as this teacher explains: “I’m trying. I am. But you know how the saying goes: You can lead a White male to anti-racism, but you can’t make him think.”

The racism, sexism, and condescension in those sentences! (The teacher, by the way, is not some outlier. In 2014, he was named Minnesota’s Teacher of the Year!) Having taken one form of religion out of the public schools, the social-justice left is now replacing it with the doctrines of intersectionality.

Less of a Man
By Christine Rosen

Over at The Atlantic, Peggy Orenstein, whose previous work includes lamentations about the cult of Disney princesses, is deeply concerned about the facts of the matter when it comes to American boyhood. She finds toxic masculinity so rampant in the culture that she declares boys have received a “miseducation” and now need “new and better models of masculinity.”

Despite her search for new models, Orenstein’s essay demonstrates a remarkable incuriosity about the reality of sex differences. At first, she celebrates the fact that young men today seem more open-minded and supportive of their female peers than previous generations. But she then pivots to argue, “Yet when asked to describe the attributes of ‘the ideal guy,’ those same boys appeared to be harking back to 1955. Dominance. Aggression. Rugged good looks (with an emphasis on height). Sexual prowess. Stoicism. Athleticism.”

She repeatedly criticizes these young men’s view of themselves—which largely conform to the sex differences in personality that Kaufman describes as, on average, being common—as a form of “stunted masculinity.” Orenstein complains that boys who turn to the women in their lives (sisters, mothers, girlfriends) to talk about their feelings are “teaching boys that women are responsible for emotional labor.”

The most revealing (and poignant) moment in her piece —albeit one she breezes past in her long march toward re-educating supposedly toxic boys—is when she asks a college sophomore what he likes about being a boy. His response? “Huh. That’s interesting. I never really thought about that. You hear a lot more about what is wrong with guys.”

He’s right, and pieces like Orenstein’s in elite publications like the Atlantic are a major reason why young men feel this way. So is the relentless message of girl-power uplift that has dominated the culture for decades, and the casual denigration of masculinity that permeates much of popular culture. What do you think passes through the mind of an adolescent boy when he sees t-shirts and bumper stickers that say things like “The Future is Female,” or any of the other casually misandrist slogans celebrated as empowering by peddlers of feminist kitsch? Where does he see himself fitting into this future? What is his role?

Orenstein, like many self-appointed fixers of boys, starts from the assumption that boys (and the male personality traits they are, on average, more likely to display) are a problem that needs to be fixed. This is a far cry from their response to the struggles of girls. When girls struggle, the argument goes, it must be the fault of the culture, or patriarchy, or Disney princesses. When boys struggle, it’s because they are inherently flawed (or have embraced an inherently flawed model of manhood) and must be reeducated by “experts” like… Orenstein.

Overlooked No More: Valerie Solanas, Radical Feminist Who Shot Andy Warhol
By Bonnie Wertheim

On June 3, 1968, Valerie Solanas walked into Andy Warhol’s studio, the Factory, with a gun and a plan to enact vengeance. What happened next came to define her life and legacy: She fired at Warhol, nearly killing him. But the violent incident, which reduced her to a tabloid headline, was hardly her most meaningful contribution to history.

Solanas was a radical feminist (though she would say she loathed most feminists), a pioneering queer theorist and the author of “SCUM Manifesto,” in which she argues for the wholesale extermination of men.

Girodias published an edition of “SCUM Manifesto” after the shooting; Solanas had unwittingly sold him the rights for $500 the previous year. Later editions were printed by AK Press and Verso. Today, the text is read in some women’s and gender studies courses.

During her arraignment, Solanas was charged with attempted murder, assault and possession of a dangerous weapon.

She was deemed unable to stand trial and was sent for a psychiatric evaluation at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, where she received a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. The evaluators also noted her intelligence test scores, which placed her in the 98th percentile.

On June 13, she was ruled insane by the Supreme Court of the State of New York and spent months in psychiatric hospitals. When she was released in December, she began calling Warhol, Girodias and others in a group she called “the mob” with threatening messages that led to her arrest in January 1969.

She was held at the Women’s House of Detention in Manhattan, then at Bellevue Hospital, before being sentenced to three years in prison in June.

After her release, she worked for a year and a half as an editor for Majority Report: The Women’s Liberation Newsletter, a biweekly feminist publication, and began writing an eponymous book. She spent her final years dumpster diving in Phoenix and living in welfare hotels in San Francisco.

Her attack on Warhol fractured mainstream feminist groups, including the National Organization for Women, whose members were split on whether to defend or condemn her. Those who defended her, including the writer Ti-Grace Atkinson and the lawyer Flo Kennedy, formed the bedrock of radical feminism and presented Solanas as a symbol of female rage.

The Weakness of the Furies
By Martha C. Nussbaum

Let’s think first of mistrust of all people on the “other side.” Hecuba learned only that Polymestor was untrustworthy, but she concluded that all men are untrustworthy. This is a common move in feminism (as in other struggles for equality). In my time, heterosexual women were often charged with disloyalty to the feminist cause, and the phrase “woman-oriented woman” was used to mean both “feminist” and “lesbian.” Some otherwise admirable feminist groups also advised their members not to collaborate professionally with males. (The same tendency can be found in other movements for equality.)

I gave my book chapter on Hecuba as a Eunice Belgum Memorial Lecture after her tragic suicide. A gifted PhD classmate of mine, Eunice had gotten a good job at a liberal arts college. Once there, she co-taught a class on feminism with a male (feminist) faculty member. At a meeting of the Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP), of which Eunice was a member, she was denounced for betraying the cause by cooperating with a male faculty member. Her parents told me that she made many phone calls the day she committed suicide, including to female students in her class to apologize for corrupting their consciousness by trusting a male faculty member. I felt and feel that Eunice was (originally) correct and that SWIP was wrong. If we can’t form carefully sifted cooperations with well-intentioned people on the “other side,” we have no hope of eventual reconciliation. Thus the refusal of trust is not a “burdened virtue” in Tessman’s sense: it is not useful, and it retards the progress of the struggle.

Indeed, sometimes a struggle requires trust even without solid evidence of intentions. Nelson Mandela was no credulous weakling. His ability to trust others was combined with a secure and advanced critical capacity. Throughout the struggle in South Africa, he formed close bonds with white allies (including Denis Goldberg, a Rivonia codefendant, and Albie Sachs, later a distinguished judge). These friendships were carefully sifted over the years, partly through Mandela’s close ties to the South African Jewish community. Here, trust was well founded. But Mandela also took some risks in the trust department. During coverage of his funeral in 2013, I remember seeing a middle-aged policeman recall, with tears in his eyes, a moment during Mandela’s inaugural parade as president in 1994. Mandela got down from his car to talk to a group of young police recruits, all white as of course they were. He shook their hands and said, “Our trust is in you. Our trust is in you.” They had expected only hostility and retribution from Mandela, and he offered them his trust. In this case, unlike those of Sachs, Goldberg, and so many others, the trust had not been earned or scrutinized. But the men were young and malleable, and Mandela proposed to leverage friendship and trustworthiness by behaving in a friendly and trusting manner. I think this is the right direction for us all. The Hecuba reminds us that, without trust (which is never perfectly secure), there is no hope of community.

Trump Overhaul of Campus Sex Assault Rules Wins Surprising Support
By Michael Powell

It was once vanishingly rare for students accused of sexual misconduct to challenge their universities. But for several years now, such students have filed lawsuits arguing lack of due process at a rate of twice a week, according to Professor KC Johnson at Brooklyn College, a critic of Title IX regulations who monitors such legal challenges. And federal judges have found that regulations trampled on the constitutional rights of students. To cite two examples:

In one case, two gay freshmen at Brandeis College fell into a romantic relationship that lasted nearly two years. They broke up and, six months later, one student accused the other of sexual misconduct, including looking at his private parts while they took showers and kissing him while he was asleep. Brandeis’s examiner did not tell the accused student of the nature of the charges and denied him a chance to question witnesses.

The student was found guilty of “sexual violence.”

In 2016, a federal judge allowed that student to sue Brandeis, observing tartly: “If a college student is to be marked for life as a sexual predator, it is reasonable to require that he be provided a fair opportunity to defend himself.” The accused student eventually dropped the case.

In another case, a football player at Michigan State, Keith Mumphery, used an online app in 2015 to hook up with a female student for sex. The other student later accused Mr. Mumphery of sexual assault; the police and the university’s Title IX office examined Mr. Mumphery’s text messages, took a DNA swab and talked to nurses, and cleared him.

After he graduated and entered the National Football League, the female student appealed that verdict with Michigan State, and Title IX officials reopened the case. Mr. Mumphery knew nothing of this. He was found guilty of sexual assault, and when the decision became public, the Houston Texans football team cut him loose.

Two years later, after a protracted legal battle, Michigan State wiped Mr. Mumphery’s record clean and paid him an undisclosed sum of money. But his N.F.L. career apparently is over.

Professor Halley experienced her own epiphany on these questions years ago: She had a female colleague, she said, who lodged complaints against several male faculty members. Ms. Halley and other professors believed her at first, before coming to doubt her allegations.

“We feminists were surprised; we assumed no woman would step forward without wrongdoing,” she said. “It was all about our acceptance of prevailing dogma.”

That understanding has informed her view of the Obama-era Title IX regulations. Sexual desire, to her view, is messy and idiosyncratic and laden with ambivalence, and it is folly to think that institutions can sort campuses into a regulated world of victims and perpetrators.

To their critics, Professor Halley and her colleagues want nothing more than to topple the pillars upholding critical feminist reforms. Prof. Lama Abu-Odeh at Georgetown described Ms. Halley in a 2018 essay as a sexual libertarian who used a “cunning bullishness” to pursue an anti-feminist deregulation of sexual harassment.

A prominent defense attorney, Wendy Murphy, delivered a withering criticism of Professor Gertner, who had written a 2015 critique of the Obama regulations for The American Prospect, titled “Sex, Lies and Justice.” (The women had a history: In 1991, they squared off against each other as Ms. Gertner successfully argued the appeal of a man accused of raping a fellow freshman at Brandeis.)

“If you can’t stop using your self-described status as a feminist to hurt women,” Ms. Murphy wrote in a 2015 open letter to Professor Gertner, “then please just stay silent.”

Do such attacks sting? Professor Gertner paused. She worried about Ms. DeVos’s motives in reworking Title IX. But she saw too many flaws in the Obama-era regulations. “This notion that I am a ‘so-called feminist’ because of my views on due process?” She chuckled dryly. “I call that the fascism of the women’s movement.”

Nor does Professor Halley shy from intellectual battle. She waves off the notion that fighting for the rights of the accused, and grappling with the complications of sexual behavior, is somehow anti-feminist and anti-woman.

“Many people think I’m a bad feminist and thus not a feminist, but that does not follow,” she said. “It’s just that we disagree about what to do in the feminist frame.”

The Media’s Tara Reade Stress Test
By Christine Rosen

The columnist Michelle Goldberg used her perch at the New York Times to show how easily goalposts can be moved when you really want to move them. Unlike Reade, Goldberg claimed, Ford had credibility because she and others involved in the matter had signed affidavits. Goldberg failed to note that Reade and her supporters would presumably also have signed affidavits if there had been an official investigation by the FBI into these claims as there was with Kavanaugh. Where are those voices on the liberal side calling for such an investigation?

Goldberg also pointed out that Reade’s story has changed over time, which it has. But so had Ford’s, and Goldberg still championed and champions her. For example, Reade has friends who have gone on the record corroborating her claim that she told them about the assault close to the time it happened. But Ford says she didn’t tell anyone about Kavanaugh (and even then, did not name him specifically) until she told a therapist in 2010. Goldberg says the therapist’s notes made Ford’s claim stronger—but she fails to mention that no one knows what those notes actually said because Ford refused to turn them over to investigators. Goldberg’s arguments were preposterous, but they were typical of the liberal response to Reade.

Going forward, can the public expect the standards that so many in the media have embraced with regard to Reade’s allegations about Biden to be the same ones they will embrace in the future if the accused man isn’t a political ally? Is the bar for credibility when it comes to leveling accusations at prominent Washington figures the new one the mainstream media have set for Tara Reade? Will publications such as the Times, which has frequently reminded readers of the allegations against Trump in their coverage of Reade’s claims against Biden, now do the same by mentioning the Biden accusations when they write anything about claims made against Trump?

These aren’t idle questions. For those who have already forgotten the level of hyperbole (and at times, hysteria) that flourished among journalists during the Kavanaugh hearings, recall that Slate’s legal reporter, Dahlia Lithwick, claimed a year after Kavanaugh was confirmed that she couldn’t return to her job of reporting on the Supreme Court because she couldn’t “get over” the fact that Kavanaugh was now on the Court and because “none of us, as women, were ever going to be perfectly safe again.”

A few voices have spoken straightforwardly about the malleability (and, by implication, the hypocrisy) of their standards. Lucy Flores, one of the women who had complained that Biden was too handsy with her and other women, spoke to the Times about Reade’s allegations and said, “We acknowledge that this is a position of impossibility for so many women, and yet so many of us are willing to do the right thing—as in, we will vote for him despite this.” Retired Brandeis professor Linda Hirshman was more blunt and utilitarian in a Times op-ed: She wrote that although she believes Tara Reade, the moral imperative to remove Trump from office outweighs the imperative to investigate Reade’s claim in good faith.

Others are more tortured by their double standards. “I feel very trapped,” said Ana Maria Archila, the progressive activist whose 15 minutes came when she cornered then Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. “What motivated me to join the fight against Kavanaugh was the threat that he represented to my country,” she told the Times. “I feel like we’re in this situation where in order to protect ourselves, we have to do something that might feel morally incoherent—which is to vote for someone who was accused of sexual assault.”

Assessing Tara Reade’s allegations
By Ruth Marcus

Liberals have faced — and failed — this test before, when they minimized the significance of President Bill Clinton’s predatory behavior with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Writing in Vanity Fair, Marjorie Williams skewered “the writers, lawyers, activists, officeholders, and academics who call themselves feminists” who had been outraged by the sexual harassment allegations against Justice Clarence Thomas but “were either silent or dismissive this time.”

We should all keep her admonition in mind today. Outrage over misbehavior only by those with whom we have ideological differences is not righteous — it is hypocritical. Skepticism about accusations only when they are made against someone with whom we are ideologically aligned is not high-minded — it is intellectually dishonest.

And yet. Reflexive acceptance of any and all allegations of sexual misconduct against any man is not staunch feminism — it is dangerous credulity that risks doing terrible injustice to the accused. #BelieveAllWomen was a dumb hashtag and a dumber approach to inevitably complex, fact-bound situations. I have always tried to argue in favor of fact-finding first, conviction later, whether in the court of public opinion, in the Senate confirmation process or elsewhere.

That was why I questioned “whether justice was done” in the case of former Minnesota Democratic senator Al Franken, whose precipitous resignation short-circuited a Senate Ethics Committee process that could have helped determine whether Franken’s behavior merited the equivalent of a political death sentence. That was why I argued during the Kavanaugh confirmation for a serious Senate and FBI investigation, not the limited sham that was designed less to unearth the truth than to secure the necessary 50 votes to get him confirmed.

Al Franken’s Revenge
By William McGurn

In disgrace, Al Franken has pulled off something no one else has done: get the #MeToo crowd to reconsider their earlier insistence that any woman who comes forward to make a public accusation of sexual assault must be telling the truth. It is a reconsideration born of the desperate Democratic need to justify not believing Tara Reade’s accusation against Joe Biden.

On Nov. 16, 2017, radio host and sports commentator Leeann Tweeden accused Mr. Franken of forcing his tongue into her mouth during a 2006 USO tour of the Middle East, two years before the comedian’s election to the U.S. Senate. She produced a photo of herself sleeping, with Mr. Franken grabbing or pretending to grab her breasts. Seven other women then came forth with their own allegations.

Mr. Franken insisted an Ethics Committee investigation would clear him, and the Journal editorial page urged him to fight to clear his name if he really was being railroaded. But Mr. Franken could read the political tea leaves: 36 of his fellow Senate Democrats, led by New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, had called for him to resign, meaning his own party had turned on him.

Former Obama strategist David Axelrod says Democrats sacrificed Mr. Franken to improve their chances of picking up a Senate seat in Republican Alabama (which they did). The GOP candidate in that race was Roy Moore, himself accused of sexual contact with minors as a man in his 30s. So Mr. Franken resigned three weeks after being accused.

In contrast, Mr. Biden went 36 days without even being asked about Ms. Reade’s claims. The hypocrisy of both Mr. Biden and the press that covered for him is obvious. Less obvious is that hypocrisy becomes inevitable when progressive enthusiasms harden into dogma—for the simple reason that they are impossible to live up to.

Maureen Dowd put her finger on this Sunday in a New York Times column, in which she wrote that the liberal idea that all women must be believed made her “wince.” “Democrats,” she continued, “always set standards that come back and bite them. They have created a cage of their own making.”

Identitarian Deference Continues to Roil Liberalism
By Matt Bruenig

Seven years ago, I coined the term “identitarian deference” (ID) to describe the idea that “privileged individuals should defer to the opinions and views of oppressed individuals, especially on topics relevant to those individuals’ oppression.” Over the years, I have argued that ID is clearly unworkable, easily gamed, and awful for those with invisible identities and oppressed groups that are necessarily locked out of the discourse (such as the lower class).

This is the story of “cancel culture” as it is currently being litigated among US liberals. Firing people for ideological disagreements is nothing new of course. But nearly all of the recent terminations and similar actions or threats (not talking about being mean online) are rooted in cynical or insane invocations of ID.

What happens in each of them is a person gets mad at the political views or expressions of an individual and then calls for their termination by making a statement that invokes their own identity and claiming that justice for people of their identity absolutely requires that a firing be done. Co-conspirators in this cynical game then excitedly proclaim that we need to defer to the voices of the oppressed and fire the person. And then other liberals who are not exactly on board make a Larry David face while tilting their head sideways and mumble to themselves “well they did preface their ridiculous claims and demands with ‘As an x person.’ Got to do it. Thems the rules.”

ID is so easy to game in this way that even a small child could see how to do it. If what you say receives deference because of what identities you have, then you can use that deference to demand anything that you like no matter how silly or calculated it is. And if anyone tries to call bullshit on it, you just point back to the ID rules that disallow anyone to separately evaluate it. After all, the fact that it doesn’t make sense to the person calling bullshit is just further evidence of the epistemological limits that require blind deference in the first place.

What’s wild about ID is that it has won a complete and total victory. The much-ballyhooed dissenting blow against “cancel culture” — the Harpers open letter — played the ID game when selecting its signatories. According to Thomas Chatterton Williams, the signature curation was “aimed at getting a group that was maximally diverse politically, racially and otherwise.” The goal was to show that “we’re not just a bunch of old white guys sitting around writing this letter.”

For as long as liberals keep indulging ID, people will take advantage of it in precisely the way that they have. And honestly, who can blame them? If we create a button that, when pressed, magically requires everyone else to agree with your ideas and demands, people would be foolish not to press it.

How “Cancel Culture” Repeatedly Emerged in My Attempt to Make a Film About Tennis Legend Martina Navratilova
By Glenn Greenwald

Growing up as a gay child in South Florida in the late 1970s and into the dark 1980s era of Reagan and AIDS, my childhood hero was the tennis star Martina Navratilova. In 1975, at the age of 18, Navratilova fled Communist Czechoslovakia, leaving her entire family behind in a daring escape, to emigrate to the U.S. In the 1980s, she became one of the only openly gay celebrities in the world, an LGBT and feminist pioneer, and an outspoken political dissident.

Though I obsessively watched Navratilova’s matches and lived and died with every point, her sports prowess was perhaps the least significant factor for her importance to my adolescence. Everything about Navratilova was defiant, individualistic, brave, trailblazing, and orthodoxy-busting: in retrospect, she was a classic existential hero, someone who refused to have her life constrained or identity suppressed by societal dictates.

Not only was she openly gay at a time when very few were, but she traveled the world with her then-wife Judy Nelson, sitting her prominently in her player’s box and forcing male sports network announcers to awkwardly struggle for a vocabulary to describe their relationship when the camera panned to her group of supporters (they usually settled on “Martina’s special friend” or “long-time companion”).

In 1981, Navratilova hired as her coach a transgender woman Dr. Renée Richards — a former Navy pilot, eye surgeon, and captain of the Yale tennis team — who had, in the 1970s, successfully sued the Woman’s Tennis Association for the right to complete in professional women’s tournaments. Decades before the world would celebrate or even know about Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, and Chaz Bono, there, alongside Navratilova’s wife at the planet’s most lucrative corporate televised sporting events was, thanks to Navratilova, one of the only visible trans women in the world. Richards coached Navratilova to two Wimbledon championships.

All of this cost Navratilova millions of dollars in commercial endorsements, as her rival, the heterosexual, all-American girl-next-door Chris Evert became America’s sweetheart and the lucrative face of corporate America. While already at the top of the game, Navratilova made herself even less corporate-friendly by transforming her body into a towering mass of muscles and agility using an intensive training regimen that caused male sportswriters and tennis fans to routinely claim that she was not a “real woman” and to insist that it was unfair that “Chrissie” should have to compete against someone so muscular and powerful. That embittered attitude hardened as Navratilova’s body transformation produced greater and greater dominance: from 1982 until 1984, she defeated the once-supreme Evert 12 consecutive times.

But Navratilova, for all the booing and jeers and journalistic insults she endured, never flinched from her pioneering role on behalf of female athletes, gay equality, and trans visibility. Along with Billie Jean King, she led the way in building a space for women to commercially succeed on equal terms with men in the world of professional sports. She transformed the conception of what female athletes are capable of achieving: Her training regimen and body transformation to this day inspire how female athletes train.

Despite being told that her status as an immigrant to the U.S. should make her less willing to criticize the U.S. government — after all, look at what this country gave you, so this rationale went and still goes — Navratilova viewed it the opposite way: She believed that she had come to the U.S. precisely to escape repression and obtain liberation, so she refused to be told that she had to suppress her opinions.

Reflecting how she lived her whole life, she was one of the first prominent people to denounce the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks for exploiting the terror threats to erode civil liberties, causing intense controversy. As a result, she was told by CNN’s then-anchor Connie Chung on national television — in an interview I wrote about in 2012 — that she should either keep her mouth shut or go back to Czechoslovakia: “I can tell you that when I read this, I have to tell you that I thought it was un-American, unpatriotic. I wanted to say, go back to Czechoslovakia. You know, if you don’t like it here, this a country that gave you so much, gave you the freedom to do what you want,” Chung said.

That my childhood hero was so unlikely — a lesbian athlete who grew up behind “the Iron Curtain” — led me to think about how we choose our role models, the ability of humans to influence one another across demographic and cultural boundaries, and the power of individuals to transcend societal constraints through some inscrutable force of will and inherent quest for personal freedom.

In 2017, I decided to make a feature-length documentary not only about Navratilova’s life, but also her role in my life, devoted to exploring all of these questions.

But then, in December 2018, everything changed. Navratilova had seen photos posted on Twitter of a trans woman who, without undergoing sex reassignment surgery, was competing as a professional athlete in women’s sports, specifically cycling. This trans woman was not only competing but beginning to win, sometimes in a dominant fashion, even though, in her mid-30s, she was already past the normal prime for cycling competition. Navratilova observed that she was vanquishing professional female athletes who were cis women and had lived their entire lives, and gone through puberty, as women.

On Twitter — the worst possible place to discuss pretty much anything, but particularly intricate debates relating to trans equality — Navratilova, after seeing the photo, wondered aloud whether trans women who have not had sex-reassignment surgery and who have lived most of their lives as men should be able to compete in female sports. Do people who are assigned male at birth and go through puberty and develop muscle mass and other secondary characteristics have an unfair advantage no matter how many hormones they take, Navratilova seemed to ponder aloud? (It was asking this same question about the fairness of trans woman in professional sports that, to this day, causes people to label podcaster Joe Rogan an anti-trans bigot).

It takes little imagination to guess what the reaction was to this tweet. The denunciations of Navratilova as an anti-trans bigot were instantaneous, swift, and brutal, and they took zero account of her lifetime, pioneering devotion to LGBT equality, including the extensive and sustained sacrifices she made by having a trans woman as a coach decades ago when gay women, to say nothing of trans women, were all but invisible. All of that activism and courageous sacrifice for her beliefs was all wiped out with a single tweet.

Navratilova then went into full-blown repentance mode. She repeatedly apologized for her initial tweet. She vowed to delete any tweets that trans people found offensive, insisting that she spoke without having thought the issue through sufficiently and without having been informed. She took a vow of silence, promising to listen and not speak on the subject again until she could properly inform herself.

But none of that was good enough. Even after deleting the offending tweets and apologizing, Navratilova continued to be branded an anti-trans bigot. She was told that she had “harmed” trans people and that deleting her tweets and apologizing was not enough. She was not being attacked and denounced, she was told, but merely “held accountable” by those she had harmed.

Watching these attacks on Navratilova, anti-trans activists in J.K. Rowling’s Britain — Ground Zero for anti-trans sentiments — quickly recognized the opportunity to recruit a valuable ally to their cause: a woman who has done as much as anyone in modern history to make it possible for women to compete on an equal commercial footing in professional sports. And thus did Navratilova’s manifesto appear in the U.K.’s largest establishment paper. This may not be a rational or noble thought process, but it is a human one: It is natural to be repelled by those who seem more interested in attacking and bashing you and who seem to want to bully you into submission, rather than attempting to persuade you and win you over to their cause with reason and dialogue.

It seems almost certain that Navratilova’s old coach and friend, Renée Richards, also played a decisive role in her didactic op-ed. After it was published, Richards told The Telegraph that she agreed with Navratilova: “The notion that one can take hormones and be considered a woman without sex reassignment surgery is nuts in my opinion.” According to The Telegraph, Richards “also revealed that she would never have competed as a woman if she had transitioned in her 20s rather than 40s because she ‘would have beaten the women to a pulp.’” Navratilova promptly tweeted the interview: “My friend Renee Richards:).”

Above all else, this was a shining monument to how social media coarsens sensitive debates to the point where dialogue and understanding become impossible. The ethos of conflict and destruction — “cancellation,” if you must — transforms people from their initial posture of seeking understanding and showing humility into warriors devoted to destroying their critics lest they be destroyed first. Everyone retreats to their militant corners and prepares for battle. Anger (and fear) over being mercilessly savaged results in digging more adamantly and uncompromisingly into the initial preliminarily held opinion, which then become immovable dogma.

As tribalistic beings, with a strong survival instinct, none of us are immune to these degrading effects of the discourse wars that play out in front of screaming virtual audiences and in short snippets of messaging that permit no nuance or compromise. At times, it seems we’ve been thrusted in a gladiator-like battle to the death over our reputations, while screaming fans wait for and then cheer any sign of blood. The last thing one is inclined to do in a gladiator ring is seek communion with one’s opponents or show any humility or vulnerability. And so goes our discourse over the most complex and novel social questions, increasingly confined to the uniquely ill-suited venue of social media.

Whatever the exact causes of Navratilova’s trajectory, any willingness on the part of mainstream LGBT groups to extend her understanding from her December tweets evaporated upon publication of this February op-ed, as she surely knew would happen. Navratilova — the LGBT icon and feminist pioneer in sports — was expelled from Athlete Ally, a group that advocates for LGBT athletes. In its statement, the group said Navratilova’s article was “transphobic, based on a false understanding of science and data, and perpetuate[s] dangerous myths that lead to the ongoing targeting of trans people through discriminatory laws, hateful stereotypes and disproportionate violence.”

It seems to me, somewhat ironically, that all the traits that caused Navratilova to be so admirable and inspiring to me in my adolescence — her fearless refusal to capitulate to societal demands or to prioritize social pieties over her own self-actualization — are what drove her into her latest controversy, where I personally found her position to be questionable at best (I don’t purport to know enough about the science to opine definitively on what protocols are needed for trans women to participate fairly in women’s sports). And I still believe that Navratilova was motivated by everything except malice and bigotry — that she was driven primarily by her belief, even if misguided, that her speaking out this way was necessary to protect the integrity of something she spent years of her life helping to build and elevate: women’s professional sports.

Oxford University professor given security guards for lectures after threats from transgender activists
By Camilla Turner

Prof Selina Todd, a historian who specialises in the lives of women and the working class, said that she has now been provided with “routine security” to ensure she is not attacked.

The academic – who has been accused of being a “transphobe” for her involvement in women’s rights advocacy – was told by her students that she was potentially in danger.

“Two students came to see me and said they were very worried that threats had been made to me on email networks they were part of,” Prof Todd told The Telegraph.

“The university investigated the threats and came back to me to say their intelligence on them is such that they are providing me security for all of my lecturers for the rest of this year. They said ‘you’re having two men in the rest of your lectures’.”

Author Damian Barr apologises for trans tweets
By John McManus

Author Damian Barr, who led a campaign to have the vice-president of the Booker Prize removed for “homophobic views” has been accused of transphobia.

Organisers cut ties with Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne, whose late husband helped to found the Booker, last week.

Barr had accused her of “very public and very powerful homophobia” because of her opposition to gay marriage.

He has now apologised for using derogatory terms to refer to transsexuals on social media.

In one post, the author also appeared to mock a transsexual who had attempted to take their own life.

The Booker Foundation removed Lady Nicholson from her honorary position as vice-president last week, after an outcry from some in the literary world about her alleged homophobic and transphobic views.

The campaign began when Munroe Bergdorf, the model and transgender activist, said she was referring Lady Nicholson to the Parliamentary Standards Conduct Commissioner over posts on social media about the trans community.

Mr Barr subsequently called for her removal, and was later joined by Booker prize-winner Marlon James and the bestselling novelist Sarah Perry, amongst others.

Lady Nicholson voted against gay marriage in 2013, but has consistently denied charges of homophobia.

“I did indeed vote against same-sex marriage in 2013,” she told the Guardian. “I have not yet learned from my critics how I am offending by perceived homophobia. In other words, they have offered no evidence.”

An Elite Progressive LISTSERV Melts Down Over a Bogus Racism Charge
By Jonathan Chait

On May 28, progressive election data analyst David Shor tweeted about a new paper by Princeton professor Omar Wasow, showing that peaceful civil-rights protests moved public opinion toward protesters while violent protests had the opposite effect. The tweet violated a taboo in some left-wing quarters against criticizing violent protest and led within days to his firing.

“Progressphiles” has roughly 1,000 members, only a tiny percentage of whom participated in the discussion about Shor, but many more of whom received a chilling message from his expulsion.

More important, the debate offers a case study in the norms of discussing race and gender within the progressive universe. Many progressives have sidestepped the problem presented by the illiberalism of these norms, dismissing them as goofy campus pratfalls. Over the past few years, and especially the past few weeks, these norms are gaining a foothold in elite professional settings, codified by tomes like White Fragility into tightly circumscribed scripts of accusation and confession. And as well intentioned as they may be, they lend themselves easily and almost automatically to abuse.

The Shor debate is anthropological evidence of these norms in action. These are not headstrong kids, nor is the episode an anomalous case of a conflict that went off the rails. It happened this way because they were following the rules.

The premise that “allyship” prohibits the questioning of any charge of racism is a common one. Not only is the rigor of Wasow’s research no defense, neither is the fact that he is also Black, which is dismissed as a “my best friend is Black” form of tokenism:

And, it is important to examine the point Shor was making in a larger sense, regardless of whose data it was that he was presenting. The point itself could be interpreted as intended to denigrate the work of the Movement for Black Lives and pin any election losses on Black lives, and the fact that folks’ first defense of this point (which is a racist point!) is to say that the researcher is biracial is literally the equivalent of saying “my best friend is Black,” so truly, I fail to understand why people want to rush to Shor’s defense.

Beyond that, the idea that the moderators are someone shutting down discourse is patently absurd. Worth considering that they are indeed, trying to shut down discourse that might actually be offensive or racist for good reason. I fully support their decision.

Note the doublethink involved: In the first sentence, claiming the moderators shut down discourse is “absurd”; in the very next line, shutting down discourse was a wise decision.

The list moderators added the the charge of “harassment” to the original indictment of a racist tweet. They refused to explain exactly how Shor engaged in harassment (and declined to respond to my emails). A member of the list who is close to the moderators provided an explanation that the moderators did not contradict, and which came to serve as the quasi-official account:

I am told that Mr. Shor’s behaviour that constituted raising the mobs and threats was going to New York Magazine, cap in hand, asking for the story to be told from his perspective and denigrating the qualifications of The Author.

New York Magazine is like neoliberal Breitbart: they are an attack publication that barely does journalism, and with the fanboys of Chait, Kilgore and Sullivan, being mentioned as the villain of the story in one of their posts is like having a target on your back. That Mr. Shor went there, knowing these things, asking for a story to blast everyone he disagreed with is enormously poor conduct and well worth the description.

This account is a mixture of distortion and outright falsehood. Shor did not approach me to write the article, and indeed was (and remains) extremely uncooperative and fearful, citing a nondisclosure agreement. I was forced to find other sources to confirm the story.

As a result of her tweets being published in my article, Trujillo Wesler was allegedly subject to harassment. The apparent accusation is that Shor bears responsibility for the blowback Trujillo Wesler received from my article, which is premised on the imagined charge that he asked for the story to be written.

When one member of the list asked for substantiation, another argued that asking for the evidence to support the claim of harassment was insensitive to the victim:

[name withheld], I need to call out a few things on what you’ve written here. You first praise the moderators for being concerned for victims of harassment, then immediately ignore the harassment in your characterization of why an individual found themselves removed from this group ­— it was in response to the harassment that followed, not for “simply tweeting about published research.” It may not be your intention to deflect but that is what is happening with these words.

Too often the burden of public exhibition is demanded of the victim. Whatever happened behind the scenes that escalated this situation far beyond a disagreement about the content of the tweet, up to and including inviting public attacks on a member of our community, I expect the moderators were privy to some of that information, and the employer of the removed individual certainly saw enough, and that information is not a public matter you should demand be shared. That disrespects the victim and the already significant spotlight placed on them. And ignores the fact that were moderators to share anything, it would likely also find its way to the public eye as well, making it even worse for the person wronged. Please demonstrate the same concern you initially praised the moderators for showing.

“Present the evidence” is incredibly insensitive to the nature of situations like these. Victims have a right to privacy, and I ask you to pause and consider that.

When anybody defending the accused is automatically accused of the same crime, and any demand for evidence of the charge is seen as an extension of the original crime, you are following the logic of a witch hunt.

Margaret Sanger Gets Canceled
By William McGurn

“The removal of Margaret Sanger’s name from our building is both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy and acknowledge Planned Parenthood’s contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color,” wrote Karen Seltzer, the chapter’s chairman.

What might that “reproductive harm” include? During a National Day of Mourning last summer, Catherine Davis of the Restoration Project, a black organization dedicated to promoting the sanctity of life and rebuilding families, offered some perspective. The estimated 20 million African-American abortions since Roe v. Wade in 1973, she noted, is more than America’s entire black population in 1960.

How ‘Karen’ went from a popular baby name to a stand-in for white entitlement
By Robin Queen

By tracing the origins of Karen up until the Central Park incident, you can see how two separate threads of meaning converged to make Karen the label for an officious, entitled, white woman.

The first comes from African American communities, where certain generic first names have long been a shorthand for “a white woman to be wary of because she won’t hesitate to wield privilege at the expense of others.” Around 2018, people started posting pictures of white women calling the police on the mundane activities of black people. These individuals got labeled with hashtags like #bbqbecky, #permitpatti, #golfcartgail and #cornerstonecaroline.

The goal was to call out the inherent racism and white privilege of these women using a particular kind of alliterative flair. This was the same sort of behavior that Amy Cooper engaged in when she called the police claiming to be threatened.

The second thread emerges from stand-up comedy and Reddit. In 2005, Dane Cook performed a sketch comedy piece in which Karen is “that friend nobody likes.” In the sketch, she’s described as “always a douche.” This portrayal of a “Karen” is less about her racism and contains more gender-based critiques, which might be why some continue to call the Karen meme sexist.

Then, in late 2017, Karen appeared on Reddit as a parody of a Reddit user who had ranted about his ex-wife named Karen who received custody of their children and possession of the family home. That’s likely the point at which Karen became linked to pushy behaviors like “wanting to speak to the manager.” A link that may have occurred first through parody went on to serve as an actual label for self-important, bossy people.

‘BBQ Becky,’ White Woman Who Called Cops on Black BBQ, 911 Audio Released: ‘I’m Really Scared! Come Quick!’
By Christina Zhao

During the first call, Schulte told a male dispatcher that two men were using the grill at a non-designated area in Lake Merritt, demanding that the situation be “dealt with immediately” so “that coals don’t burn more children and we don’t have to pay more taxes.”

The dispatcher asks Schulte to describe the men, including their race and what they are wearing, before the conversation ends.

Schulte calls 911 again a few hours later and a female dispatcher answers the phone.

“I was wondering when the police are going to come and help me!” Schulte can be heard saying loudly, over the shouts of someone in the background.

“What’s the panic over a barbecue? I don’t understand,” the dispatcher asks. “So why are you in an argument with these people? Can you walk away?”

Schulte explains that the family followed her out of the park before a female in the background yells: “You’re the one harassing people!”

‘I Have a Black Husband’: Man Sells T-Shirts off Woman’s Plea in Video
By Seren Morris

A Seattle woman who allegedly used a racial slur defended herself by screaming and saying “I have a Black husband” in a video that has gone viral. The man who accused the woman of calling him a racial slur advertised “Karen” T-shirts quoting the video within hours.

Karlos Dillard shared a video of the incident on his Instagram and Twitter and said that he was driving when the woman cut him off. She allegedly then flipped him off and called him the n-word, before allegedly following him in her car.

There was no evidence the woman used the racial slur, and the man’s Twitter feed contains at least one other video accusing a woman of insensitive conduct. His Instagram advertises T-shirts emblazoned with the distressed woman’s cry.

In the video, Dillard follows her home to confront her and says: “Karen, you are not going to sit there and flip me off.”

She gets out of her car and says: “I have a Black husband,” “You are totally calling me something that I am not,” and “You’re attacking me.”

As Dillard shows her license plate and apartment building on camera, she crouches down to hide her plate while crying.

There is no video of the woman using the racial slur. She later apologizes to Dillard for cutting him off but says she didn’t flip him off. Passersby in the video also said they witnessed her cutting him off, although Dillard also mentions he may have indicated too late.

Dillard tells the passersby multiple times that the woman called him the n-word, but when confronting the woman, he only accuses her of cutting him off and flipping him off.

According to a passerby who saw the incident, the crying woman said: “Do you know how many Black Lives Matter marches I’ve been to?” to which the passerby says: “That doesn’t matter if this is how you act when you’re by yourself.”

After Dillard puts his phone away but continues recording audio, the accused woman apologizes and tells him, “My heart is all about this movement” and “My heart is breaking right now because you don’t know how much I love humanity.”

He then tells her: “You’re not going to be on Instagram, I’m not going to ruin your life.”

The video has more than 120,000 views on Dillard’s Instagram account and a shorter clip of the incident has more than 2 million views on Twitter at the time of writing.

White Woman Is Fired After Calling Police on Black Man in Central Park
By Sarah Maslin Nir

A black man, an avid birder, asked a white woman to leash her dog in Central Park, as the rules required. She refused.

Then the encounter, which was recorded on video, took an ugly turn.

As the man, Christian Cooper, filmed on his phone, the woman, clutching her thrashing dog, called the police, her voice rising in hysteria.

“I’m going to tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life,” she said to him while dialing, then repeated to the operator, twice, “African-American.”

Within 24 hours, the woman, identified as Amy Cooper (no relation to Mr. Cooper), had given up her dog, publicly apologized and been fired from her job. Mr. Cooper expressed regret for the extent of the retribution.

Christian Cooper: Why I have chosen not to aid the investigation of Amy Cooper
By Christian Cooper

Why did Cooper so easily tap into that toxic racial bias in the heat of the moment when she was looking for a leg up in our confrontation? Why is it surprising to no one that the police might come charging to her aid with special vengeance on hearing that an African American was involved? And most important of all, how do we fix policing so that scenarios such as this are replaced by a criminal justice system that is truly just and equitable to black people?

Focusing on charging Amy Cooper lets white people off the hook from all that. They can scream for her head while leaving their own prejudices unexamined. They can push for her prosecution and pat themselves on the back for having done something about racism, when they’ve actually done nothing, and their own Amy Cooper remains only one purse-clutch in the presence of a black man away.

Those concerns must be weighed against what prosecuting the case means for us black people. I appreciate that it is important to uphold the principle of law, and that those who try to turn racism to their advantage by filing false claims against a person of color should be held accountable. But note that laws against filing a false police report are already on the books and will remain enforceable, whether applied in this case or not.

Finally, I believe in punishments that are commensurate with the wrongdoing. Considering that Amy Cooper has already lost her job and her reputation, it’s hard to see what is to be gained by a criminal charge, aside from the upholding of principle. If her current setbacks aren’t deterrent enough to others seeking to weaponize race, it’s unlikely the threat of legal action would change that. Meanwhile, for offenders who don’t suffer consequences like Cooper’s, the law is still there to exact a price.

Would I consider it fair and just if Cooper were found guilty and sentenced to anti-bias training and some form of community service? Yes. But black people know all too well that the criminal justice system often doesn’t work that way — that an ambitious DA with an election next year, in the current social climate, might seek and achieve a sentence of a year behind bars. All for an offense from which I suffered no harm, physical or mental. That wouldn’t be a commensurate punishment.

So while acknowledging the principle at stake, I must err on the side of compassion and choose not to be involved in this prosecution. Let the DA do his job. He has already decided to pursue charges; if he feels my involvement is essential to the case, he can subpoena me. If subpoenaed, I will testify, truthfully and accurately. Otherwise, the case is the DA’s, not mine.

I know that some people may disagree with my reasoning, and that this decision comes as a disappointment to many who share in the struggle for social justice, and I’m sorry for that. But under the circumstances, it’s the only course I can pursue in good conscience.

ViacomCBS cuts ties with Nick Cannon, cites ‘hateful speech’
By Lynn Elber

ViacomCBS cut ties with Cannon in response to his remarks on a podcast in which he and Richard “Professor Griff” Griffin, the former Public Enemy member, discussed racial bias. The podcast was recorded in May 2019 and released on June 30.

The men contended that Black people are the true Hebrews and Jews have usurped that identity. Cannon then argued that lighter-skinned people — “Jewish people, white people, Europeans” — “are a little less” and have a “deficiency” that historically caused them to act out of fear and commit acts of violence to survive.

“They had to be savages,” he said.

Jewish leaders including the Anti-Defamation League and prominent rabbis criticized the remarks.

Cannon said in his apology tweets that his words “reinforced the worst stereotypes of a proud and magnificent people and I feel ashamed of the uninformed and naïve place that these words came from.”

ViacomCBS cited Cannon’s lack of contrition as part of its reason for terminating their working relationship with him.

Facebook bans French comedian Dieudonne for anti-Semitism
By Deutsche Welle

Social media giant Facebook announced Monday it has permanently banned French comedian and convicted anti-Semite Dieudonne from its platforms for spreading content that mocked Holocaust victims.

Facebook said some of his posts used “dehumanizing terms against Jews,” according to news agency AFP. The ban also extends to Instagram, which Facebook owns.

“In line with our policy on dangerous individuals and organizations, we have permanently banned Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala from Facebook and Instagram,” the company said in a statement shared with French news outlets.

“Banning a person permanently from our services is a decision that we always weigh carefully, but individuals and organizations hat attack others on the basis of what they are do not have a place on Facebook or Instagram,” the statement continued.

The decision comes a month after Google banned him from YouTube at the end of June for similar reasons.

Celebs join Twitter anti-Semitism boycott
By BBC News

A 48-hour boycott of Twitter by some of its users, protesting at the platform’s alleged lack of action on anti-Semitism has begun.

It was triggered by the actions of grime music artist Wiley, who shared several posts on Twitter on Friday.

Some of the tweets were deleted, but Twitter was criticised for taking time to act and leaving some tweets up.

Many of those taking part accused Twitter of “breaking its own policies” for not having taken a tougher line – Wiley has been temporarily suspended by Twitter but not banned.

Police are now investigating Wiley’s tweets, and said “enquiries remain ongoing”. The so-called “godfather of grime” has also been temporarily barred from Instagram.

Wiley’s management also dropped the artist over the weekend, saying: “There is no place in society for anti-Semitism.”

The 41-year-old artist, whose real name is Richard Cowie, is a major figure in grime music, and was made an MBE in 2018 for services to music.

The anti-Semitism row has also resulted in calls for that honour to be withdrawn.

Ice Cube’s Long, Disturbing History of Anti-Semitism
By Marlow Stern

There is indeed a troubling history of black musical artists being exploited by Jewish executives and managers, from Aretha Franklin to Etta James, but this is far from an exclusively Jewish phenomenon. Take Def Jam CEO (and accused serial rapist) Russell Simmons paying the Beastie Boys, who are Jewish, a pittance for Licensed to Ill, for example. (He’s since apologized—to the Beastie Boys, not to the 13 women who’ve accused him of sexual assault.)

Upon Death Certificate’s release, a number of Jewish groups called for it to be pulled from shelves, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center. “I know that recording artists these days like to use the excuse that their music reflects reality, but this record is dangerous,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean. “This is not a just theoretical issue here. Ice Cube is advocating violence against other ethnic minorities and given the climate of bigotry in the 1990s, we consider this kind of material a real threat.”

Ice Cube defended the lyrics in an interview at the time: “I’m not against Jews in either of those songs. I’m just doing what they do in the media. When they describe someone they often say he’s black or Korean or Muslim. That’s all I’m doing. Saying he’s a Jew doesn’t mean I don’t like Jews or I’m using a negative. I don’t like (Heller), but it’s not because he’s Jewish.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Where Is the Outrage Over Anti-Semitism in Sports and Hollywood?
By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

These famous, outspoken people share the same scapegoat logic as all oppressive groups from Nazis to the KKK: all our troubles are because of bad-apple groups that worship wrong, have the wrong complexion, come from the wrong country, are the wrong gender or love the wrong gender. It’s so disheartening to see people from groups that have been violently marginalized do the same thing to others without realizing that perpetuating this kind of bad logic is what perpetuates racism.

One of the most powerful songs in the struggle against racism is Billie Holiday’s melancholic “Strange Fruit,” which was first recorded in 1939. The song met strong resistance from radio stations afraid of its graphic lyrics about lynching:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Despite those who wanted to suppress the song, it went on to sell a million copies that year and became Holiday’s best-selling record ever. The song was written by a white, Jewish high school teacher, Abel Meeropol, who performed it with his wife around New York before it was given to Holiday.

The lesson never changes, so why is it so hard for some people to learn: No one is free until everyone is free. As Martin Luther King Jr. explained: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”

A new intelligentsia is pushing back against wokeness
By Batya Ungar-Sargon

William Lloyd Garrison, one of the United States’ most important abolitionists, lived with a bounty on his head for much of his life. His newspaper, The Liberator, advocated for an immediate end to slavery, and he faced down a lynch mob more than once for his writing. One of his avid readers was a formerly enslaved person who went by the name of Frederick Douglass. “His paper took its place with me next to the bible,” Douglass wrote of The Liberator in his memoir.

The two met at an abolitionist meeting in 1841 after Douglass stood up and described to the white crowd what it was like to live as someone else’s property. It was a powerful address, though Douglass, only three years removed from slavery, was so nervous he later couldn’t remember what he had said. Garrison became his mentor, retaining Douglass as a representative of the Anti-Slavery Society, publishing Douglass’s work, encouraging his book and sending him around the country to speak about the evils of slavery.

But the two had a bitter falling out in 1847 over the United States Constitution. Garrison believed that the document was pro-slavery, “the formal expression of a corrupt bargain made at the founding of the country and that it was designed to protect slavery as a permanent feature of American life,” writes Christopher B. Daly in “Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nation’s Journalism.”

Douglass initially agreed. But by the time he published “My Bondage and My Freedom,” he had reconsidered, and believed that “the constitution of the United States not only contained no guarantees in favor of slavery, but, on the contrary, it is, in its letter and spirit, an anti-slavery instrument, demanding the abolition of slavery as a condition of its own existence, as the supreme law of the land.”

By then Douglass had his own newspaper, The North Star, and he began to advocate for political tactics to end slavery, something Garrison could not abide. In 1851, Garrison withdrew the American Anti-Slavery Society’s endorsement from Douglass’s paper. And then he went further: He denounced Douglass from the pages of The Liberator and did not speak to him for 20 years.

A white abolitionist tried to cancel Frederick Douglass, a formerly enslaved person, for disagreeing about whether America could ever free itself from racism.

Today we are having a new national debate about whether the United States is redeemable, about the nature of its founding figures and documents – even the date of its founding — and what to do with those who dissent. But one side is winning. Since George Floyd’s horrifying murder, an anti-racist discourse that insists on the primacy of race is swiftly becoming the norm in newsrooms and corporate boardrooms across America. But as in Douglass’s day, the sides are not clearly divided along racial lines. A small group of Black intellectuals are leading a counter-culture against the newly hegemonic wokeness.

They are public intellectuals like John McWhorter, a professor of linguistics at Columbia University; Thomas Chatterton Williams, a memoirist and contributor to The New York Times Magazine; Kmele Foster, cofounder of Freethink and host of The Fifth Column Podcast; and Chloe Valdary, founder of a startup called Theory of Enchantment. Also frequently opining against today’s new norms are Glenn Loury, professor of economics at Brown, and Coleman Hughes, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor at City Journal (Hughes and Loury did not respond to interview requests). Each is contributing to a powerful counternarrative and as a result, their Twitter followers and podcast downloads are exploding. In being anti-woke and having experienced being Black in America (though not all identify as “Black”), these public intellectuals scramble the racial lines of today’s debate, speaking up for many who are too afraid to voice their opinions – and facing down the mob on their behalf.

“If I get canceled,” Williams told me recently, “I’ll get canceled by a white anti-racist. I really believe that.”

It would be wrong to overstate the similarities between these thinkers. They are by no means a coherent group, and disagree about many, if not most, topics. Foster is an anarcho-libertarian. Williams has left-wing politics, and McWhorter identifies as a liberal. Valdary founded a start-up that offers a curriculum of character-building, spiritual solutions to overcoming adversity (Disclosure: I am on the board and she is a friend). Loury is more conservative, and Hughes is perhaps most famous for testifying before Congress against Reparations.

What unites them into an emerging and increasingly influential intelligentsia is their rejection of the racial essentialism they view as ascendant in our current moment – the idea that one must prioritize race over everything else to combat racism.

“Racial essentialism is very reductive and actually oppressive,” Valdary told me. “Ironically, it reduces us as individuals to our immutable characteristics, which is precisely what we were supposed to be fighting against.”

The ‘Diversity’ Trap
By Zaid Jilani

A shallow, reductive version of diversity that first gained a foothold in progressive political spaces has rapidly spread across American institutions and the corporate world. It values skin color and other inherited characteristics above all else, largely ignores class issues, and overlooks the benefits of real diversity, like the anti-fragile resilience created by fostering people with different viewpoints. Yet, despite the many flaws and dangers of this new orthodoxy—or perhaps because of them—anyone who challenges it, risks damage to their career and social life.

Just look at the case of Denise Young Smith. Young Smith spent almost two decades working her way up in Apple, becoming one of the few black people to ever reach its executive team. She was named vice president of diversity and inclusion, and in 2017 traveled to the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia.

At the summit, she was asked by a reporter whether black women would be a priority in her new role promoting diversity in the company. In her answer, she described a lonely rise through the ranks: “I’ve been black and a woman for a long time. I have been a first, I’ve been an only,” she said. She talked about hearing from other black women in the industry who shared stories about people assuming they were the assistant or secretary rather than the manager.

Her words were a powerful testament to anyone who has ever been stereotyped or been on the receiving end of low expectations due to the color of their skin.

But then, despite all her years of hard work and accomplishments, she made a fatal mistake and breached the etiquette of high liberalism’s diversity culture. “You asked me about my work at Apple, or in particular, who do I focus on?” she said to the reporter. “I focus on everyone. Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color or the women or the LGBT or whatever because that means they’re carrying that around … Because that means that we are carrying that around on our foreheads,” she replied.

Then she uttered the sentence that really got her into trouble: “And I’ve often told people a story—there can be 12 white blue-eyed blond men in a room and they are going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation,” she noted.

Within a week, the uproar over her comments forced Young Smith to write an apology. A few weeks later, her departure from the company was announced. She was replaced by Christie Smith, a white woman.

Neither Apple nor Young Smith has directly connected her departure to the controversy over her comments but they didn’t have to for the point to be made. The contemporary “diversity culture,” which I had first witnessed in progressive organizations, has spread across the entire corporate world and is enforced by a highly educated activist class. And what the culture dictated in this case was that Young Smith had to be punished for stating an obvious moral truth—that people are individuals, whose experiences and identities are not reducible to their race or outward appearance. Her humiliation served as an example and a warning to others: If a black female executive could be defenestrated for expressing the mildest criticism of the high-liberal definition of diversity as a matter purely of inherited background, then anyone could be.

A recent Pew poll shows that 74% of Americans say companies should make decisions about hiring and promotions by only taking a person’s qualifications into account, “even if it results in less diversity”—that includes a majority of every single racial group. By a similar margin, Americans oppose the use of racial preferences in college admissions.

If those facts surprise you, perhaps it demonstrates my point. Homogenizing racial groups—either through old-fashioned biological racism or the woke epistemology of flattened “lived experiences” our melanin content supposedly imparts—hides the great diversity of thought within our ranks. Our diversity culture will remain shallow until it learns to look past the color of a person’s skin.

Americans overestimate voters’ prejudices against women and ethnic minorities
By The Economist

The researchers found that Democrats, in particular, appear to overestimate the prejudices of American voters. For instance, Democrats in the survey guessed that only 61% of Americans, and 43% of Republicans, would say that they are willing to vote for a woman as president. But according to the Gallup poll, 94% of Americans, including 90% of Republicans, said they would be prepared to pick a woman. The Democrats polled by Mr Mercier made similar misjudgments about Americans’ expressed willingness to vote for ethnic minorities, Muslims and gays … . Republicans surveyed by Mr Mercier also tended to overestimate their party’s voters hostility towards minority candidates, though not nearly to the same degree as Democrats. Might respondents be hiding their real prejudices from pollsters? In fact, past research has found that people are generally truthful when polled about their willingness to vote for candidates who belong to ethnic-minority groups.

There was one kind of candidate for which Democrats slightly overestimated Republican support. They guessed that 23% of Republicans would be willing to support a socialist candidate for president. According to Gallup, the actual share of Republicans willing to send a socialist to the White House was 19%.

Many of Elizabeth Warren’s supporters have argued that sexism was a chief reason why the senator failed to win more votes during the Democratic primary. Mr Mercier’s study suggests this was not the case, noting that perceptions of Ms Warren’s electability were not correlated with perceptions about the electability of women in general among Democrats. In contrast, the analysis finds that concerns about electability may have hurt Ms Warren’s former left-wing rival, Bernie Sanders. Democrats polled who were sceptical about socialists’ chances also tended to doubt that Mr Sanders, who calls himself a “democratic socialist”, could win the general election.

Of course, voters’ personal prejudices matter little when their choice of candidates are demographically similar, as will be the case in November. Take age. According to Gallup, just 63% of voters say they would be willing to vote for someone over the age of 70. And yet the three major candidates left in the race are Donald Trump (73 years old), Joe Biden (77) and Bernie Sanders (78).

Glenn Loury on Race, Inequality, and America
By EconTalk

Russ Roberts: … Give me some optimism. It’s been a pretty, somewhat pessimistic conversation so far. And, you’re a contrarian, which I salute. The things you’re saying, I think, probably aren’t always easy to say; and I know you’ve thought about them a lot and I salute you for that. But, give me some optimism where we might be heading as a nation.

Glenn Loury: Well–

Russ Roberts: And, my only optimism is that we recognize something that I think a lot of people have failed to recognize, which is what it’s like to be black in America. In response to that, I worry we might do something not so wise. So, what are your thoughts?

Glenn Loury: But, I mean, is it really what it’s like to be black in America? I mean, does Ta-Nihisi Coates[?] or Nikole Hannah-Jones, or these writers, Ava DuVernay, the filmmaker, are they telling us what it’s like to actually be black in America? Or are they a reflection of a particular sliver of American and African American culture, of relatively prosperous people who are ideologically Left and in the throes of a particular narrative about American history that we’ve already discussed?

I don’t know if the work-a-day, average person in a African American enclave and American city necessarily sees the world in the same way. I don’t know. These are questions that we could ask–what people have to say about the 4th of July, about the founding of the country, and so on. We could ask. I wouldn’t necessarily take what I see from the talking heads in, and[?] on the op-ed pages, as dispositive in that regard.

But, here’s my optimism; and it’s not an optimism about race. I’m actually very pessimistic. I think we’re cruising for a bruising. I think things are going to get worse before they get better. I think when you have mobs in effect outside of courthouses demanding, quote-unquote, “justice”–which means the conviction of people, in effect, independently of what the evidence might show–that’s a very bad thing. I think when you get the routine characterization of difficult interactions between citizens and the police, in terms of the race of the people who happened to be involved in these things–that’s the first thing they say–I worry. I worry that tomorrow I’m going to wake up to a world in which black criminality is legitimately a term of discussion in public discourse, because the racialization of the interaction between police and citizens has become so routine. And, that’s a world of trouble.

But, I look at the last 50 years–so you go back to 1970 and how the country has changed. And, one of the things that has changed dramatically is we have had an enormous wave of immigration, largely from non-European sources–from Asia, from Latin America, and to a lesser extent from Africa and Europe. But we’ve had a huge, massive flow of people.

And, what has been the net result of that? The net result of that has been one of the most remarkable stories in modern history, of the incorporation–again, because we also had a huge wave of immigration from European sources or earlier in the 20th, the late 19th, or earlier in the 20th century. The dynamism for the capacity of our society to absorb, to the countless number of stories of families whose lives have been transformed and enhanced–the possibility.

This is a very, very, very good thing.

The Roots Of Wokeness
By Andrew Sullivan

A moral giant like John Lewis advanced this country not by intimidation, or re-ordering the language, or seeing the advancement of black people as some kind of reversal for white people. He engaged the liberal system with non-violence and persuasion, he emphasized the unifying force of love and forgiveness, he saw black people as having agency utterly independent of white people, and changed America with that fundamentally liberal perspective.

The gay rights movement, the most successful of the 21st century, succeeded in the past through showing what straights and gays have in common, rather than seeing the two as in a zero-sum conflict, resolved by prosecuting homophobia or “queering” heterosexuality. The women’s rights movement has transformed the role of women in society in the past without demonizing all men, or seeing misogyny as somehow embedded in “white supremacy”. As we have just seen, civil rights protections for transgender people—just decided by a conservative Supreme Court—have been achieved not by seeing people as groups in constant warfare, but by seeing the dignity of the unique individual in pursuing their own happiness without the obstacle of prejudice.

In fact, I suspect it is the success of liberalism in bringing this kind of non-zero-sum pluralism into being that rattles the critical theorists the most. Because it suggests that reform is always better than revolution, that empirical truth is on the side of the genuinely oppressed and we should never fear understanding things better, that progress is both possible in a liberal democracy, and more securely rooted than in other systems, because it springs from a lively, informed debate, and isn’t foisted on society by ideologues.

Everywhere and nowhere: The many layers of ‘cancel culture’
By Hillel Italie

A few weeks ago, more than 100 artists and thinkers endorsed a letter co-written by Packer and published by Harper’s. It warned against a “new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.”

The letter drew signatories from many backgrounds and political points of view, ranging from the far-left Noam Chomsky to the conservative David Frum, and was a starting point for contradiction.

The writer and trans activist Jennifer Finney Boylan, who signed the letter, quickly disowned it because she “did not know who else” had attached their names. Although endorsers included Salman Rushdie, who in 1989 was forced into hiding over death threats from Iranian Islamic leaders because of his novel “The Satanic Verses,” numerous online critics dismissed the letter as a product of elitists who knew nothing about censorship.

One of the organizers of the letter, the writer Thomas Chatterton Williams, later announced on Twitter that he had thrown a guest out of his home over criticisms of letter-supporter Bari Weiss, the New York Times columnist who recently quit over what she called a Twitter-driven culture of political correctness. Another endorser, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, threatened legal action against a British news site that suggested she was transphobic after referring to controversial tweets that she has written in recent months.

Harper’s ‘Cancel Culture’ Letter Kicks Off Circular Firing Squad in Media
By Lloyd Grove

The heat generated by such sentiments—positing a bizarre kind of equivalency between right-wing Trumpist demagogues and their ideological adversaries—was apparently too much for another signer, Tufts University history lecturer Kerri Greenidge.

She demanded late Tuesday to be removed from the signatories, while two of Greenidge’s sisters claimed—erroneously, the evidence strongly suggests—that her name was used without her knowledge or consent.

“I do not endorse this @ Harpers letter,” Prof. Greenidge tweeted late Tuesday. “I am in contact with Harper’s about a retraction.”

The magazine obliged Greenidge, who took her Twitter account private minutes after The Daily Beast emailed requesting comment on the flap, and removed her name—apparently the only signer to make such a demand. Greenidge didn’t respond to the email.

Meanwhile, the Tufts historian’s sisters—novelist and New York Times opinion writer Kaitlyn Greenidge and playwright Kirsten Greenidge—claimed that Kerri was blindsided by her inclusion among the bold-faced names at the bottom of the Harper’s letter.

“A colleague in a professional org my sis belongs to added my sister’s name without her consent,” Kaitlyn tweeted. “So mad at this person rn.” She added: “That @ Harpers letter came to me last week and I was so mad about it when I read it have been angry about it for days. My sister does not condone it either and does not agree with its contents. This is a mess.”

Kirsten Greenidge, in an email reviewed by The Daily Beast, wrote to the magazine: “I suggest your editorial staff check on the veracity of the signers of the letter. Kerri Greenidge did not sign the letter, and only became aware of its existence when it came to her attention on Twitter.”

Kerri Greenidge’s name appears as a copied recipient of her sister’s email, which carried the subject line “Cancel Culture Letter.”

However, Greenidge’s sisters’ claims are contradicted by apparent communications between the Tufts academic and Harper’s in late June and early July—a series of emails also reviewed by The Daily Beast.

In a June 29 email soliciting Greenidge’s participation, a letter organizer wrote: “Not every signatory is going to love every last phrase. But we hope you’ll feel comfortable enough with the language to sign on without tinkering…We would be enormously grateful for your endorsement here. Thanks for considering it.” (The sender’s name was redacted from the email reviewed by The Daily Beast.)

“Yes, I will add my signature. It reads well,” Greenidge replied the same day from her Tufts email address. “Let me know what more you need from me.”

“Thanks. We are giving people the option of using an institutional affiliation or just saying ‘author,’ ‘historian,’ ‘writer’ or something else. Your preference?” the organizer emailed.

“I will go by Historian,” Greenidge responded.

On July 1, the organizer emailed: “Dear Kerri, We now have over 125 signatories on our list, which is quite diverse. The final version of the letter is attached. Thank you for your support. Harper’s has agreed to publish it online. It should run next week…Again, thank you for your support.”

Reached by text, Kirsten Greenidge insisted that “my sister did not sign the letter and Harper’s did not contact her to verify her signature before publication.”

Asked about the discrepancies between the emails and her statement, Kirsten Greenidge replied: “You would need to discuss those with her,” meaning her sister.

A Taxonomy of Fear
By Emily Yoffe

Confronted with words, ideas, or decisions they dislike, a growing number of people are asserting that they are in danger of suffering psychological or even bodily harm. But when one party asserts that a debate threatens their very well-being, it is hard to deliberate on policy—or topics such as race and gender. The result is a narrowing of the space for public discussion and an inability to teach ever more ideas and books.

Recently, more than 150 writers and academics (including Yascha Mounk and I) signed a public letter defending open debate. Shortly after, transgender writer Emily VanDerWerff shared on Twitter a note of complaint she had written to her editors, stating that the letter had rendered her “less safe at Vox” because Matt Yglesias, one of Vox’s co-founders, was among its signatories.

How could signing a letter decrying the intolerant atmosphere on the left render a colleague less safe? Because, VanDerWerff argues, the letter was also signed by people she characterized as “prominent anti-trans voices.” Though the letter itself made no mention of trans issues, and VanDerWerff has never accused Yglesias himself of expressing objectionable views on the subject, this, she claims, was enough to harm her.

VanDerWerff’s note certainly illustrates safetyism. Going one step further, it also assumes the truth of a principle of “contamination by association.” People, the logic goes, cannot only be made unsafe by the beliefs or statements of their colleagues but also by those with whom their colleagues associate.

In this view, the contamination is ruthless and insidious. As VanDerWerff asserts, not only is Yglesias now responsible for the views of all the signers of the letter; she is also concerned that readers and sources may now assume that she herself shares those views because she works with Yglesias. If the principle of “contamination by association” were to be adopted this broadly, people would soon be answerable for the work of the co-signatories on a letter, for those with whom they have appeared on a panel, for those they might talk to on a podcast, and for countless others with whom they share the most tenuous of professional connections.

Upon her appointment, Kathleen Kingsbury, who became the New York Times’ acting editorial page editor when James Bennet was pushed out, told the paper’s staff that anyone who saw “any piece of Opinion journalism—including headlines or social posts or photos or you name it—that gives you the slightest pause, please call or text me immediately.”

Of course, some things do need to be reported. But when you live in a society in which people are primed to disclose all discomfort to authority figures, trust and goodwill quickly erode. It also means being aware that you yourself might end up as the subject of a complaint. As Lukianoff and Haidt write, “life in call-out culture requires constant vigilance, fear, and self-censorship.” But shaming someone, especially when done publicly as part of a group, “can award status.”

One of the most disturbing examples of this trend is that high school students are now being encouraged to excavate each other’s social media, looking for instances of racial insensitivity and making them public. “Many students believe the only consequence their peers will take seriously is having their college admissions letter rescinded,” reports the New York Times. As a sixteen-year-old administrator of a social media account exposing the alleged racism of her classmates explained, “people who go to college end up becoming racist lawyers and doctors. I don’t want people like that to keep getting jobs.”

Over the past thirty years, America has become a hyper-punitive society, and our zero-tolerance mindset has led to an addiction to punishment. This has resulted in mass incarceration, causing the destruction of millions of lives and of entire communities. But many of the same people who abhor the excesses of our criminal justice system applaud this new form of social ruin.

To be sure, being shunned by your peers or having your admission to college rescinded is not the same as going to jail. But in the age of the internet, social censure can, much like a criminal record, mark someone for life. Do we really want a world in which someone’s educational and professional prospects are diminished because of something they said—genuinely stupid or offensive though it may have been—when they were fifteen?

Some on the left still claim cancel culture doesn’t exist. Mass firings, they say, are not taking place. Only a few people—who probably deserved it!—have lost their jobs.

But it doesn’t require mass dismissals to put many people in a genuine state of unease and intimidation. A few chilling examples are enough to spread the fear to a lot of people that an inadvertent error can destroy your life. As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat writes, “the goal isn’t to punish everyone, or even very many someones; it’s to shame or scare just enough people to make the rest conform.”

And so dread settles in. Challenging books go untaught. Deep conversations are not had. Friendships are not formed. Classmates and colleagues eye each other with suspicion.

In her 2003 memoir, Azar Nafisi describes secretly teaching Lolita and other forbidden Western books to a small group of female students in Iran. Reading Lolita in Tehran portrays a group of students so committed to the expansion of their minds that they are willing to put their freedom at risk to read a novel.

In her 2019 book, The Problem with Everything: My Journey Through the New Culture Wars, Meghan Daum asks a colleague who teaches twentieth-century American literature at the University of Iowa whether he still teaches Lolita. “It’s just not worth the risk,” he tells her.

‘American Dirt’ is a novel about Mexicans by a writer who isn’t. For some, that’s a problem.
By Teo Armus

“American Dirt” has received praise from a number of celebrated Latina writers, including Erika L. Sánchez and Julia Alvarez. The best-selling Mexican American author Sandra Cisneros called it “the great novel of las Americas” and “the international story of our times.”

Yet, the controversy around Cummins’s novel has also revived a perennial debate in the literary world over whether — and how — writers can tell stories about identities they don’t know firsthand.

When Cummins decided to write a novel about immigration and the border, that apprehension led her to conduct exhaustive research, she has said. She made multiple trips to Mexico to interview migrants seeking refuge in shelters along the border, lawyers who represent unaccompanied children, deportees forced out of the United States and family members left behind.

Cummins also consulted with Norma Iglesias-Prieto, a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at San Diego State University, who encouraged the author to pursue the novel despite her limited personal experience with immigration.

“Jeanine, we need every voice we can get telling this story,” the professor said. Iglesias-Prieto later told the Los Angeles Times that “everyone has the right to write about a particular topic even if you are not part of this community.”

‘American Dirt’ critics are censoring the author based on her genetic background
By Kathleen Parker

Author Jeanine Cummins doubtless thought she was acting nobly when she spent five years researching the immigrant crisis along the border — traveling to Mexico, interviewing migrants, volunteering at a soup kitchen that serves migrants, as well as visiting orphanages.

But thanks, perhaps, to the overindulgence of her publisher (Flatiron Books) — Cummins reportedly received a seven-figure advance — and a high-profile rollout, Cummins earned the contempt of critics who considered her unworthy of her topic, not because the book wasn’t quite good enough (as some critics have noted) but because she wasn’t sufficiently Latina. Poor Cummins had only one Latina grandmother. And, get this: Her Irish husband, once an illegal immigrant, wasn’t quite underdoggish enough. (Never mind that many Irish immigrants came to the United States as indentured servants, or that it was common for signs on stores and restaurants and for job listings to say: “No Irish.” Or “No Irish Need Apply.”)

Once Cummins’s genetic shortcomings caught the attention of social media’s literati, it was off to the bonfires. Not only was she condemned, prompting her to cancel her book tour in fear for her safety, but a petition was circulated asking Oprah Winfrey to remove Cummins’s novel from her book-club list.

Regardless of the author’s relative value to the genre of fiction, it should be obvious that one’s DNA does not predict literary talent, insight or even wisdom born of experience.

How dare William Styron write “Sophie’s Choice” when he was not Jewish, a woman nor a Holocaust survivor? A list of authors who have written great books without meeting today’s ancestry requirements would fill, well, a library.

As the ‘American Dirt’ backlash ramps up, Sandra Cisneros doubles down on her support
By Dorany Pineda

Author Sandra Cisneros reaffirmed her support for the contentious migrant novel “American Dirt” just hours after the book’s publisher canceled writer Jeanine Cummins’ promotional tour.

Cisneros, the esteemed Mexican American author of “The House on Mango Street,” joined journalist Maria Hinojosa for an exclusive interview that aired Wednesday on the NPR podcast “Latino USA.”

Cisneros, an early champion who called “American Dirt” “the great novel of las Americas” and “the international story of our times” in a blurb before the book was published, doubled down on her love for it. She argues that it holds the potential to educate an audience that hasn’t previously been exposed to migrant stories.

“It’s going to be [an audience] who maybe is undecided about issues at the border,” Cisneros told Hinojosa. “It’s going to be someone who wants to be entertained, and the story is going to enter like a Trojan horse and change minds. And it’s going to change the minds that, perhaps, I can’t change.”

Author tour for controversial ‘American Dirt’ is canceled
By Hillel Italie

“Jeanine Cummins spent five years of her life writing this book with the intent to shine a spotlight on tragedies facing immigrants,” Bob Miller, president and publisher of Flatiron Books, said in a statement Wednesday. “We are saddened that a work of fiction that was well-intentioned has led to such vitriolic rancor.

“Unfortunately, our concerns about safety have led us to the difficult decision to cancel the book tour.”

Cummins was defended by Ann Patchett, the author and bookstore owner who runs Parnassus Books in Nashville and gave the book an early blurb. In an email to The Associated Press, she wrote that Cummins had done a “beautiful job talking about the journey she’s been on with this book,” but that she understood the decision to end the tour.

“For the record, I loved ‘American Dirt.’ I’ve never in my life seen this kind of public flogging,” she wrote.

Despite the criticism, Cummins’ novel was easily the top-selling work of fiction last week, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks around 85 percent of the print market. “American Dirt” sold more than 48,000 copies during its first week, even topping Delia Owens’ blockbuster “Where the Crawdads Sing,” which sold just under 25,000 copies.

Before ‘American Dirt,’ a history of Oprah’s Book Club controversies
By John Maher

Shortly after the “American Dirt” controversy blew up, another began to grow over Kate Elizabeth Russell’s “My Dark Vanessa,” a novel about a 15-year-old girl’s relationship with a predatory boarding-school teacher that also sold for seven figures. In an essay in Gay magazine, writer Wendy C. Ortiz criticized publishers for elevating white voices over nonwhite authors, citing her 2014 memoir, “Excavation,” about her own sexual abuse as a teenager, as an example. While stopping short of accusing Russell of plagiarism, Ortiz alluded to “eerie similarities” between the books. Later, Russell outed herself as an abuse survivor online, perhaps to emphasize that the novel arose from her own life. The publisher had pushed the book’s publication date from January to March after learning that it was to be Winfrey’s next pick. Last week, however, “Oprah’s Book Club”abruptly dropped it. As O magazine books editor Leigh Haber said, “We are going to be very cognizant of wanting the selections not to create noise around the book that prevent her from discussing the book.” It seems one controversy this year was enough.

Authors quit JK Rowling agency over transgender rights
By Jim Waterson

Four authors represented by JK Rowling’s literary agency have resigned after accusing the company of declining to issue a public statement of support for transgender rights.

Fox Fisher, Drew Davies and Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir said they could no longer work with the Blair Partnership, the London-based agency that represents all aspects of the Harry Potter author’s work, because they were not convinced the company “supports our rights at all avenues”. One other author is understood to have also quit the agency but wishes to remain anonymous.

In a joint statement, Fisher, Davies and Jónsdóttir said that following Rowling’s recent intervention on transgender rights, they had asked the agency “to reaffirm their commitment to transgender rights and equality”. However, following private talks, they said: “We felt that they were unable to commit to any action that we thought was appropriate and meaningful.”

As a result, the writers felt unable to continue to be represented by the agency, adding: “Freedom of speech can only be upheld if the structural inequalities that hinder equal opportunities for underrepresented groups are challenged and changed.”

In its response, the Blair Partnership said it took pride in the diversity of views represented by their authors but it could not compromise on the “fundamental freedom” of allowing authors the right to express their thoughts and beliefs.

Best-selling children’s author Gillian Phillip is sacked – after adding hashtag ‘I stand with JK Rowling’ to her Twitter handle amid bitter row over transgender rights
By Nick Craven

In the latest example of ‘cancel culture’, novelist Gillian Philip was last week jettisoned from her role writing titles for a major publishing company.

It came after the writer, who has penned a popular series of books for eight-to-12-year-olds, added the hashtag #IStandWithJKRowling to her Twitter handle.

After Ms Philip received sexualised abuse and deaths threats from the trans lobby, she tweeted ‘Bring it on, homophobes and lesbian-haters’ – which only inflamed the situation.

Within 24 hours, James Noble, managing editor of Working Partners, replied to the barrage of complaints saying: ‘The worlds created by Erin Hunter are meant to be inclusive for all readers and we want to let you know that Gillian Philip will no longer be writing any Erin Hunter novels.’

Upcoming YA Novel ‘Ember Days’ Canceled by Author
By Sara Grochowski

Alexandra Duncan has canceled her young adult novel Ember Days mere days after its cover reveal on BookPage. An hour after Duncan posted the cover reveal for the book, which was slated for a March 2021 release from Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, to her Twitter feed, author Bethany C. Morrow questioned the representation within the novel, which was noted in the book’s description: “Naomi is the granddaughter of a powerful Gullah conjure woman, sent to Charleston to combat an evil force circling the city and hiding in plain sight as Deidre’s protégé.”

Morrow said, via Tweet, “I’m immediately concerned about an apparently white author not only writing a Gullah character, a very underrepresented and erased people group, but then writing about a Conjure woman… and how/what she is ‘hiding in plain sight’?” Duncan immediately acknowledged Morrow’s concern, responding, “I definitely struggled with whether it was okay for me to write about a culture outside my own and especially about the difficult topic of passing, which Naomi does for part of the book while going undercover in an all-white magical society,” further explaining that her decision to write from the perspective of a character with Gullah Geechee heritage stemmed from an interest in writing about folk magic traditions from “her area of the South.”

In a statement released yesterday by Duncan, she refers to exchanges with author colleagues following the cover reveal, which made her aware that in her “misguided attempt to write a book that was inclusive of all cultures of Charleston and the Lowcountry, where the book is set,” she participated in the “ongoing erasure of [the Gullah Geechee] culture.” Explaining that her “own limited worldview as a white person” led her to incorrectly assume she could responsibly depict this culture, Duncan said, “Clearly, the fact that I did not see the signs of the problem with my book’s premise in my research or conversations about the book is evidence that I was not the right person to try to tell this story. I am deeply ashamed to have made a mistake of this magnitude and hope my actions will not negatively affect the cause of bringing greater diversity to children’s literature.”

Duncan also addressed and rejected the misconception that the cancellation is censorship, noting, “It is wholly my decision to withdraw the book in order to mitigate the harm I have done. I have work to do to improve myself and my writing, and I will continue doing it.” She concluded the statement by suggesting that readers support Black authors and providing a list of suggested “published or upcoming YA, all of which contain elements of fantasy and folklore.”

In a response to PW’s request for comment, Greenwillow said, “We support Alexandra Duncan’s decision to withdraw her manuscript and to not go forward with the publication of her novel Ember Days. We look forward to working with her on new projects in the future.

REMOVED: Upcoming YA Novel ‘Ember Days’ Canceled by Author
By PW Editors

After review, Publishers Weekly has determined that this story about a book cancellation failed to meet our editorial standards. We have removed the story for two reasons: the failure to meet our standards of reporting, and our unintentional promotion of online abuse directed toward an individual named in the story as a result of our not more thoroughly investigating the events leading to the cancellation of the book. We regret the damage the publication of this story has caused this individual, as well as any other instances of violence enacted upon Black, Indigenous, and other people of color as a result of PW‘s past reporting on similar matters.

We would like to assert that the decision to cancel the book in question is not the responsibility of the named individual. That the article’s poor framing and under-reporting resulted in the perpetuation of abuse on the individual named in this article makes clear to PW’s editors that its method of reporting on stories such as this one is flawed. Any stories whose reporting lead to abuse against BIPOC and the perpetuation of systemic racism are stories that have failed their audience—a failure for which PW takes full responsibility.

As a result of this failure, PW will establish new standards for coverage of book cancellations. Those standards will be announced later this summer after they have been determined and thoroughly vetted. We apologize for our error in judgment in publishing this piece, and commit to ensuring that our articles will not cause harm in the future.

China’s library officials are burning books that diverge from Communist Party ideology
By Gerry Shih

Library officials in northwest China recently hoped to demonstrate their ideological fervor and loyalty to the Communist Party by purging politically incorrect books and religious materials in emphatic fashion: They burned them.

Then they uploaded a report — and a photo — to showcase their work.

The incident attracted widespread attention Sunday after Chinese social media users noticed a report on the Library Society of China’s website from a library in Zhenyuan county. The library declared it had removed “illegal publications, religious publications and deviant papers and books, picture books and photographs” in an effort to “fully exert the library’s role in broadcasting mainstream ideology.”

The library’s announcement said the event was attended by education and culture bureau officials. It included a picture of employees burning a stack of books outside the entrance of the library, which was adorned with a red banner declaring it would “grasp the themes of education and promote the comprehensive and strict development of the party.”

The incident was likely a response to a new directive from the Education Ministry calling on school libraries to cull teaching materials, analysts said. Chinese authorities in recent weeks have talked up the importance of tightening their grip over classrooms after Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, which Beijing believes are a product of the city’s independent, and wayward, education system.

The nationwide memo from ­October called for a ban of materials that harmed national unity and sovereignty, contradicted the Communist Party’s direction and path, or propagated religion, among other things.

But for many Chinese, and even some of the country’s tightly controlled news outlets, the sight of local officials trumpeting book-burning was too much.

Chen Youxi, a prominent defense lawyer, warned officials that book-burning “goes down in history” and loosely compared it to the Cultural Revolution in a social media post that was censored hours later. The Cultural Revolution, which started in the mid-1960s and lasted a decade, was an attempt to purge Chinese Communist society of the remnants of traditional and capitalist elements.

The Beijing News called for an investigation into the library in an opinion column. That was also censored.

The incident in Zhenyuan stemmed from the current climate in which local officials believe they can gain political points for dramatically culling books, he added. “They saw it as positive thing, a proud thing to report,” Zhang said.

Qiao Mu, a former professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University who was demoted to working as a librarian in 2014 for his political speech, said academics have been increasingly suspended or fired for political speech in recent years.

This year, several professors were criticized and publicly shamed by their students for taking views seen as sympathetic to Hong Kong’s protesters or criticizing the Chinese leadership.

“The book-burning was not surprising when you consider the pressure on academics in recent years,” said Qiao, who moved to Virginia in late 2017 because of the climate in China. “I only fear that it will get worse.”

In echo of Mao era, China’s schools in book-cleansing drive
By Huizhong Wu

One middle-school teacher in a rural area told Reuters their school had removed traditional comic-like picture books called lianhuanhua, or “linked images,” popular in China until the 1990s; books about Christianity; books about Buddhism; and notably, copies of “Animal Farm” and “1984” – George Orwell’s classic novels about authoritarianism which have been available in China for decades.

The teacher, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a small group of staff were led by their librarian in an after-hours operation in late April to inspect and remove the books.

Each night in sessions of up to five or six hours over seven days, they flicked through thousands of titles, selected about 100 that met guidelines issued by the local government and removed them, filling in a form to report their actions.

“Of course, these books, the students don’t really look at them anyway,” the teacher said. “So if we had to get rid of some, we would start with this.”

Some schools and counties have taken to social media such as Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform that is subject to official censorship, to broadcast their participation.

“Book inspection and clean-up is meticulous but tedious work, shouldering the heavy responsibility of watering the flowers of the motherland,” announced a Weibo post in May by Xianlai school in Jiangxi province, above a picture of a woman in a floral dress sorting books on a shelf.

“Our school has taken concrete action to cultivate a virtuous youth, and has raised the quality of our library books one step further.”

Pro-democracy books pulled from Hong Kong libraries
By BBC News

Books by pro-democracy figures have been removed from public libraries in Hong Kong in the wake of a controversial new security law.

The works will be reviewed to see if they violate the new law, the authority which runs the libraries said.

The legislation targets secession, subversion and terrorism with punishments of up to life in prison.

At least nine books have become unavailable or marked as “under review”, according to the South China Morning Post newspaper. They include books authored or co-authored by Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy activist, and pro-democracy politician Tanya Chan.

On Saturday, Mr Wong tweeted that the new law “imposes a mainland-style censorship regime” on Hong Kong, calling it “one step away from … actual book banning”.

Hong Kong politician whose book was yanked from shelves says, “I don’t know how I can protect myself”
By Haley Ott

“Originally in Hong Kong, we were supposed to have rule of law. But now it’s rule by law, or even rule by fear,” Tanya Chan, a pro-democracy lawmaker and lawyer in the semi-autonomous Chinese region, told CBS News. Her book, “My Journeys for Food and Justice,” which was published in 2014, and written, she said, when she was not serving on Hong Kong’s legislative council, has reportedly been placed “under review” by libraries and schools in Hong Kong.

“I’m really worried,” Chan said, adding that she isn’t sure why her book, which outlines some of her thoughts on politics and travel, has been placed under review. “You don’t know when you will step into these traps or even you will step on these red lines, because red lines are everywhere, and they move constantly. Constantly. So the only thing that you can do is just lead a normal life and be yourself.”

She said she sometimes finds herself self-censoring, wondering if anything she says or does will run afoul of the new legislation.

“I do question myself before taking interviews or even expressing myself. It becomes like a new normal. But I’m really scared about this part, because freedom of speech, freedom of expression, why do I do this to me, to myself? I think this is totally unacceptable. So this is like a hurdle that I think all Hong Kong people need to get over.”

She said other countries should respond to Beijing’s move by examining what values they hold to be important.

“China is not just exporting products or technology, they also export their way of thinking and their ideologies. On one hand is economic benefits or convenience. On the other side is democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, rights, rule of law,” Chan told CBS News. “When they are consistent, when they are working hand in hand, of course it’s OK. But when these two sides are in conflict, which part do you treasure more?”

AP Exclusive: Allen has new publisher, memoir out Monday
By Hillel Italie

The initial announcement of “Apropos of Nothing” came earlier this month, when Grand Central Publishing confirmed to The Associated Press that it would release his book April 7. But the news was met with quick and growing outrage, centered on allegations that Allen abused Dylan Farrow. Ronan Farrow, who shared the Pulitzer Prize with the New York Times for his New Yorker investigation into Harvey Weinstein, was enraged to learn that Allen’s book was being published by the same parent company, Hachette Book Group. that released his “Catch and Kill.” The acclaimed book further delved into the MeToo movement. Dozens of Hachette employees staged a walkout over the Allen book and Farrow, who had ben working on “Catch and Kill” at the time Machete acquired Allen’s memoir, said he would stop working with the publisher.

Hachette canceled the release less than a week later, although Stephen King was among those questioning the decision as an infringement of free speech, writing on Twitter: “It’s who gets muzzled next that worries me.”

In a postscript to the Arcade edition, Allen alleges that Hachette had vowed to publish “Apropos of Nothing” despite his “being a toxic pariah and menace to society.” But, he writes, “When actual flak did arrive they thoughtfully reassessed their position” and ”dumped the book like it was a hunk of Xenon 135.”

Woody Allen’s memoirs: this is the behaviour of censors, not publishers
By Jo Glanville

The staff at Hachette who walked out were not behaving like publishers, they were acting as censors. I have been watching Woody Allen films since I was a child and I would like to read his book. I would even want to read his book if he were found guilty, because I am interested in the man, his work and his life. I do not check up on the moral purity or criminal record of a writer before I read them. I would have to strip my bookshelves of many of the writers I love the most if I were going to start to apply the principles of the Hachette staff. TS Eliot and Roald Dahl for a start, as antisemites. In fact most of the English canon would have to be chucked on that basis.

Publishers need to have courage – the courage to publish books that do not suit the moral climate and that express unfashionable views. In the 70s, publishers repeatedly fought for the right to publish in the face of obscenity prosecutions. Those were battles that pushed the boundaries for freedom of expression. Back then, it was Mary Whitehouse who led the moral outrage, most famously in bringing a private prosecution against Gay News for publishing James Kirkup’s poem in which a Roman centurion has sex with Jesus. Gay News lost the case.

I interviewed the great writer and barrister John Mortimer shortly before he died, who defended Gay News and acted for many of the defendants in the obscenity cases of the time. He remembered Whitehouse praying in the corridor when the jury were reaching their verdict. He told me that the general public tends to be in favour of censorship.

In the wake of #MeToo, we have come to view moral outrage as a good thing – we don’t associate it with a reactionary figure like Mary Whitehouse or see it as a barrier to progress. Shutting things down, keeping the wrong kind of views off the platform, has come to be admired. It’s remarkable that a small group of people has managed to persuade one of the biggest publishers in the world to back down, but their cause may not be as morally sound as they believe.

As publishers, in fact, the conduct of the staff who protested is highly questionable. I do not want to read books that are good for me or that are written by people whose views I always agree with or admire. I am always afraid when a mob, however small and well read, exercises power without any accountability, process or redress. That frightens me much more than the prospect of Woody Allen’s autobiography hitting the bookstores.

Woody Allen’s Memoir Is Published
By Alexandra Alter and John Williams

Jeannette Seaver, an editor who acquired the book, said that Arcade decided to publish the book not only on the merits of the material, but also on principle, to take a stand against Mr. Allen’s critics.

“In this strange time, when truth is too often dismissed as ‘fake news,’ we as publishers prefer to give voice to a respected artist, rather than bow to those determined to silence him,” she said in a statement. “We firmly believe in upholding the right to freedom of speech in the world of publishing and, as a result, we’re pleased to support not only this terrific book but also — and even more importantly — this democratic principle.”

Grand Central had acquired the rights to Mr. Allen’s autobiography in March 2019, but had only announced that fact earlier this month. The journalist Ronan Farrow, whose best-selling book “Catch and Kill” had been released by Little, Brown, another Hachette imprint, last year, quickly lashed out at the company, saying it had secretly planned to publish Mr. Allen’s book behind his back, and that he would no longer work with the publisher.

Mr. Farrow, whose reporting on accusations of sexual assault against Harvey Weinstein and other powerful men helped touch off the #MeToo movement, is Mr. Allen’s son with the actress Mia Farrow. Mr. Farrow and his adopted sister, Dylan Farrow, have long accused Mr. Allen of molesting her when she was a child, allegations he has denied. Mr. Allen was not charged after two investigations.

Hi, I’m on the Shitty Media Men list, but maybe you already knew that
By Mike Tunison

In October 2017, I was one of roughly 70 men included in the Shitty Media Men list, a crowdsourced spreadsheet of anonymous, unvetted allegations of sexual misconduct and assault. No words can describe my astonishment and horror at finding myself accused of “harassment,” “stalking” and “physical intimidation.” Even more agonizing was seeing this supposedly private listing, allegedly intended as a whisper-network warning among trusted insiders, swiftly leaked to the public, initially on the website of conservative activist Mike Cernovich and later on other outlets and social media.

The damage to my career seemed equally swift. In the decade leading up to the list, my work was regularly published by more than a dozen outlets and I was frequently offered work. After the leak, that work screeched to a stop. Today, I write for only one outlet I previously contributed to; income that covers only a few smaller bills. I’ve applied for hundreds of conventional office jobs, ranging from PR to administrative assistant to technical writing in an effort to avoid a bankruptcy that could hurt family members whose finances are linked to mine. Yet employers don’t seem to view the four years I spent creating, organizing and running a popular blog as applicable experience. Most days, it’s difficult to envision a path back to a decent life.

My story is noteworthy only because I’m one of the least powerful men to have been publicly accused in the MeToo era. What makes this event intolerable isn’t just that the allegations against me are false. It’s that I have no idea who made them.

A few of the men on the list were investigated and fired. Others continued in their careers just fine, most as staffers of established news organizations with bosses willing to listen to their sides. Still others disappeared from public life, which some have taken as a tacit admission of guilt. When the list was created, I’d been freelancing exclusively for two years. Of all media jobs, freelancing may be the least powerful. It’s extremely easy, and far from uncommon, for the editors on whom freelancers depend for their livelihoods to brush them off without explanation. Not one editor asked me about the list’s allegations. I just stopped getting work.

Other factors may well have contributed to my undoing, including the shuttering of numerous publications and shrinking of freelance budgets. Admittedly, specifically quantifying the damage this public shaming has done to my career is impossible. But few would disagree that success in media is often about connections — and most of my connections evaporated. Colleagues, readers, and even friends who once supported my work no longer do. Editors and writers I reach out to are either distant or uncommunicative.

What can’t be questioned is the psychological toll the list has taken. Almost immediately after its release, a close friend of 10 years cut me off and hasn’t spoken to me since, even after I reached out to him. Day after day, I’m tortured by the thought that even more people will learn of the allegations or that I’ll be unexpectedly attacked for them online.

A side note to the accusations leveled at me was the claim that an “HR file at The Washington Post,” where I was an editorial aide from 2005 to 2008, existed that presumably backed up the accusations. The Post keeps scanned personnel files on all employees, so an HR file on me does exist. But when I called the newspaper’s human resources department for verification, I was told my file contains no mention of accusations, investigations or disciplinary actions.

It made no sense. Baffled, I reached out to the former coworker I had assumed was my accuser, a female reporter in my office whom I felt sure had at times found me rude or inconsiderate. She said she didn’t write my entry and didn’t know who did. No one else makes any sense to me whatsoever. What’s more, The Post was my last office job. All the media work I’ve had in the decade since was done remotely.

Anyone who reads the vaguely worded claims against me could imagine the worst: That I followed a woman home or staked out her place, cornered her and made threats. With no chance to explain myself, I’m terrified this is what people assume. How can I counter such assumptions in a situation in which the burden of proof is entirely on me? How do I explain away actions an unknown person claims I took more than a decade ago?

Few would argue that the culture hasn’t changed enormously during those years. In 2006, it was much easier for men to insulate themselves from feminist perspectives. That’s when I co-founded the sports blog Kissing Suzy Kolber, where five male staffers and I produced admittedly crass and offensive humor. By the time I shuttered it in 2015, KSK had become considerably more thoughtful and tasteful, and featured a regular female staffer. But there’s no denying I created some undeniably problematic content. I have to live with the fact that the site’s transgressions may have helped some people believe the claims against me.

“Sh**ty Media Men” List Creator Unable to Escape Libel Suit
By Eriq Gardner

In a decision with potentially large ramifications, New York federal judge LaShann DeArcy Hall won’t dismiss a libel suit against “Shitty Media Men” creator Moira Donegan.

The complaint comes from Stephen Elliott, a widely published author and director of About Cherry and Happy Baby who was upset about his inclusion in a spreadsheet that circulated in the wake of allegations against Harvey Weinstein. That spreadsheet — called “Shitty Media Men” — allowed women to anonymously contribute stories of being victims of sexual misconduct. Elliott had an entry. He allegedly was someone facing “rape accusations, sexual harassment, [and] coercion.”

Since Elliott isn’t deemed to be a public figure, his burdens in this defamation claim are lower, and he’s able to survive a motion to dismiss. As a result of this, the case is headed toward exploration of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the very same law that is the subject of controversy these days for affording tech services immunity for third party content.

In relevant part, CDA 230 states that “[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

As the one who circulated the spreadsheet so that other women could contribute entries, Donegan “qualifies as a provider of an interactive computer service,” writes Judge Hall.

But the judge then adds, “Conversely, the Court is unable to find that it is evident from the face of the complaint that the allegations against Plaintiff included in the List were provided to Defendant by another information content provider.”

Explaining, the judge says it is possible that Donegan created the entry herself. The judge believes that Elliott should be able to explore whether the entry was fabricated. Accordingly, discovery proceeds, which will now put pressure on Google to respond to broad subpoena demands. The next motion stage could feature a high-stakes one about the reaches of CDA 230.

Sacha Baron Cohen Is Wrong About Social Media, Wrong About Section 230… And Even Wrong About His Own Comedy
By Mike Masnick

Earlier this year, we discussed Yochai Benkler’s new book, the excellent Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics, which is filled with charts and data showing something pretty damn clearly: most of the disinformation and misinformation didn’t go very far until it was “validated” by a mainstream news source, namely: Fox News. Yes, the lies and shams did start out on social media, but they were mostly ignored. Until Fox News validated them, then they spread like wildfire.

So while it’s good that Cohen admits that he’s not a scholar, “Network Propaganda” is written by three excellent scholars, and perhaps we should listen to them, rather than a comedian, on this subject?

Again, Cohen gets some stuff right, and the written version of his speech also does link to some research, but the conclusions he draws from it don’t actually seem supported by what he links to. He’s right that the algorithms on these platforms were tuned to increase “engagement,” and that resulted in a lot of bogus recommendations, dragging people further down a hole of radicalization. But, as with his view of his own comedy, he leaves out the actual human element. How many people is this actually influencing? He doesn’t say. He doesn’t know. How many people are being “radicalized” via these platforms? He doesn’t say. He doesn’t know. He assumes it’s so because we hear about it all the time. But where do we hear about it? Oh yeah, back on the mainstream news.

… the internet is not about broadcast. It’s about communications. It’s about enabling anyone to communicate with anyone. Should we have “standards and practices” for how the telephone is used? Should the Postal Service read through all your mail and not send it on if you say bad words? That’s what Cohen is asking for. You don’t apply broadcast standards to communications systems. It just doesn’t work that way.

Hell, referencing the MPAA’s ratings system is really, really sketchy, since the MPAA ratings system was a direct outgrowth of the Hays Code, which was used to censor films for decades, as there was a moral panic about “decency” in filmmaking. People look back on that era with regret at how that stifled free expression. For Cohen, of all people, to use that as an example of what we should bring to the internet is striking. Strikingly stupid and censorial.

Corporations are working with the Trump administration to control online speech
By Ron Wyden

Section 230 was written to provide legal protection to online platforms so they could take down objectionable material without being dragged into court. It lets companies remove posts from white supremacists or trolls without being sued for bias or for limiting individuals’ First Amendment rights. If a website wants to cater to the right wing, it can. If it wants to ban Trump supporters, it can do that, too.

Section 230 also says the person who creates content is the one responsible for it. So if President Trump libels an innocent person on Twitter, he can be sued. Without 230, social media couldn’t exist. Sites such as Yelp would be sued to death. Start-ups such as Portland’s AllGo, which collects user reviews about how restaurants serve plus-size customers, would never get off the ground. Movements such as Black Lives Matter or #MeToo, whose advocates post controversial accusations against powerful figures on social media, would have remained whispers, not megaphones for oppressed communities.

The fight is defined by an intensive lobbying effort by big legacy corporations such as Disney and IBM that are looking for an advantage against big tech companies such as Google and Facebook. Each side wants to rewrite the rules to cement its own dominance.

Some have argued that repealing Section 230 would punish Facebook and Google for their failures. That’s simply not true. The biggest tech companies have enough lawyers and lobbyists to survive virtually any regulation Congress can concoct. It’s the start-ups seeking to displace Big Tech that would be hammered by the constant threat of lawsuits.

Whenever laws are passed to put the government in control of speech, the people who get hurt are the least powerful in society.

That’s what happened in 2018, when, in the wake of news stories about disturbing ads on a site called Backpage, Congress scaled back 230 with a law known as SESTA-FOSTA — a combination of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act. At the time, I proposed a different approach, including hiring more prosecutors. And I warned that this bill would do little to stop sex trafficking or help true victims but would simply push sex work underground.

By all accounts that is exactly what has happened. Backpage was shut down before SESTA even went into effect. And sex workers have been driven to the dark Web or the streets, where sex trafficking has increased dramatically. The most vulnerable group bore the brunt of this law.

This is how speech regulation inevitably works in practice. If Congress somehow were to amend the First Amendment and ban hate speech from the Internet, I see no reason to believe President Trump and Attorney General William P. Barr would use that authority to protect LGBTQ activists or female journalists or African American civil rights leaders.

Planet of the Censoring Humans
By Matt Taibbi

There’s an implication that “misinformation” by foreign or independent actors is somehow more dangerous than broadly-disseminated official deceptions about U.S. misbehavior abroad, or manufactured scandals like Russiagate. We now expect libertarian or socialist pages to be zapped at any minute, but none of the outlets which amplified the bogus Steele dossier have been put in Internet timeout.

Moreover, despite widespread propaganda to the contrary, the new movement to regulate speech on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube is, actually, censorship. In the United States, high-ranking politicians in both parties have held congressional hearings and threatened these tech companies with tighter regulation and taxation if they do not develop policies for combating the “fomenting of discord.”

In response, these companies – which as recently as four or five years ago were disavowing editorial responsibilities, in the case of Facebook going so far as to deny being a media company at all – are now instituting vast new controls. It’s a clear symbiosis: governments permit mining of lucrative markets in exchange for access to the platforms’ monitoring powers.

“That’s censorship,” says Andre Damon of the World Socialist Web Site. “That’s a First Amendment issue.”

Throughout the last four years, it’s mainly been left to people affected by these new policies to point out the obvious, that relying on star-chambers of corporate gatekeepers to oversee information flow will have dramatic consequences. These voices seem to be the only ones interested in sticking up for the rights of political opponents.

“I don’t think anyone can confuse me for a supporter of Donald Trump, but I see the danger of celebration of Twitter fact-checking him, because that’s going to be the model for all of us,” says Ali Abuminah, author and co-founder of Electronic Intifada, which has extensively covered the suppression of speech in Palestine by Facebook, including the recent removals.

“It’s always presented as, ‘We’re going to crack down on white supremacists and anti-vaxxers,’” says Damon. “But the practical impact of speech controls is always to advance the interests of the ruling class.”

The director of Roger and Me and Bowling for Columbine has had plenty of prior experience with efforts to suppress his work. In 2001, HarperCollins blocked the release of his book Stupid White Men, on the grounds that a book critical of the U.S. government was inappropriate after 9/11. In 2004, Disney tried to block subsidiary Miramax from distributing Fahrenheit 9/11, a film that detailed links between the families of Bush and Osama bin Laden.

Both attempts failed. Stupid White Men was released after a group of librarians flooded the publisher with protest letters, and Fahrenheit 9/11 was ultimately distributed after Miramax and Disney reworked their deal.

The clear difference in this case was Moore and Gibbs are taking on Shibboleths on the left, instead of the right. Erstwhile liberal allies this time employed a tactic the right never used, describing the film as not merely wrong but “dangerous.” In conjunction with the new embrace of Internet control, this was enough to achieve something that Bush and Cheney never did: suppression of major motion picture.

How Marsha Hunt fought Hollywood blacklisting
By Vincent Dowd

… before she was 30 Marsha Hunt had made more than 40 films. Producers valued her attractive and intelligent screen presence.

In 1945 she was asked to join the board of the Screen Actors Guild and for the first time her politics came under scrutiny.

“I was proud to be asked. To have a voice in what would affect all screen actors was dazzlingly important to me,” she says. But Cold War tension was building with the Soviet Union and anyone suspected of left-wing sympathies was open to attack.

Hollywood, radio and TV came under suspicion. The political pressure came from HUAC – the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities.

In 1947, HUAC summoned 10 writers to Washington to testify. Each was asked if he was a communist and all ultimately went to prison for refusing to answer or to name other communists.

Marsha’s problems with the authorities may have begun when she joined the Committee for the First Amendment – a group of liberal actors who supported the Hollywood Ten. Among those who flew to Washington were Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly and John Huston. Also there were Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart, married and the biggest stars Warner Bros had.

“We were a brigade to defend those who’d been blacklisted or were under suspicion,” Hunt remembers. “We were serious citizens trying to set Washington straight: we were not a bunch of Reds. We were headed by the Bogarts so we were a pretty spiffy team.

“We made our speeches and did a radio programme called Hollywood Fights Back and came home thinking we’d been patriots and had defended our profession. If there were some communists among us that was their business and not ours.

“I knew nothing about communism but I just thought that as it was a legal party other people had the right to join the darned thing if they wanted to. But it was a time of hysteria and all of us who spoke out against blacklists were punished in some way or other. There was a very strong right wing in the movie business.”

Stars who’d supported the committee quickly came under huge pressure from studio bosses to recant and Humphrey Bogart declared that his support had been a mistake.

Hunt remembers that turnabout with sadness. “I’m sorry to say but it can only be cowardice. That’s a terrible word to use about the Bogarts but why else would they do that? We all went to Washington to defend other people’s rights. It was a time of people really turning quite ugly.”

“We live, we proudly insist, in a free country. By that was meant, I was sure, that you were free to your opinions and actions if they didn’t break any law. The anti-Reds were fighting Americans’ freedoms. I didn’t know the first thing about communism – never studied it, never learned about it. I must have known a few communists but I didn’t care – that was their business, not mine.”

To continue to work on screen her agent persuaded her to write out a statement of her beliefs. “It was an anti-communist declaration and he said without it I would never clear my name. Gradually it changed things for me in Hollywood but my work and reputation never returned to how they were.”

Hunt says she was never at the top of anyone’s list of people to attack. “But there were actors I worked with and liked who were or had been communists. I’d been seen in the company of so-and-so and that was enough.

“Suddenly to have the dirtiest word in the American language – communist – held against me was an outrage. And I had no way to end it or fight back.”

“Many younger people know little about the Hollywood blacklist,” she says. “Sometimes I’m asked if it could ever happen again. I hope America learned from what happened all those years ago. But how can you ever be sure?”

Hollywood ‘kowtowing’ to China takes heat from Washington. But why now?
By Ryan Faughnder

In 20th Century Fox’s 2018 hit “Bohemian Rhapsody,” references to Queen front man Freddie Mercury’s sexuality were cut from the version that screened in China. Last summer, a Twitter user noticed that Tom Cruise’s bomber jacket in a trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick” was altered to remove patches representing the flags of Japan and Taiwan, which was interpreted as a move to appease China. Barr’s speech cited Marvel’s 2016 blockbuster “Doctor Strange,” which changed the origin of the character The Ancient One from a Tibetan monk to a Celtic mystic, played by Tilda Swinton.

Some film industry executives, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Washington’s concern over censorship is overblown, noting that studios trim movies for many countries, including conservative Middle Eastern nations, to avoid offending local sensibilities. Altering movies to appeal to audiences in the world’s most populous nation makes business sense.

“We’re not compromising values,” said one film business insider, who was not authorized to comment.

Entertainment industry veteran Chris Fenton, author of the upcoming book “Feeding the Dragon,” about the relationship between U.S. studios and China, said studios should be more careful about how they respond to Chinese restrictions.

“Studios need to admit that there is a lot of hypocrisy going on,” Fenton said. “They need to get out of their bubble and realize that a lot of their constituents are becoming very aware of the issues in China.”

How China Won the Keys to Disney’s Magic Kingdom
By David Barboza and Brooks Barnes

It may be all smiles now, but Mickey Mouse knows all too well what can happen when the Middle Kingdom gets mad.

The year was 1997, and Disney had finally found a bit of success in China. “The Dragon Club,” a Disney cartoon series, was popular in Chinese homes, and “The Lion King” had given Disney its first big hit in Chinese cinemas. But then came “Kundun.”

As part of a now-defunct effort to make films for more sophisticated audiences, Disney agreed to back the director Martin Scorsese, who wanted to make “Kundun,” about China’s oppression of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader. The Chinese government, which considers the Dalai Lama a separatist, denounced the project and pressured Disney to abandon it.

In the end, Disney decided that it could not let an overseas government influence its decision to distribute a movie in the United States. “Kundun” was released, and China retaliated by banning Disney films and pulling “The Dragon Club.”

“All of our business in China stopped overnight,” Disney’s chief executive at the time, Michael D. Eisner, recalled.

Although “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was screened in Shanghai in the 1930s, Disney really had no measurable business in China until decades later, when Mr. Eisner secured Sunday evening placement for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons on the country’s biggest state-run broadcaster. That led to Mickey’s Corner kiosks that sold consumer goods like Minnie Mouse-branded shampoo, and to more television shows.

By the time of the “Kundun” debacle, the demand was clearly there. Mr. Eisner just needed to undo the damage.

Disney hired former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and mounted an intense lobbying effort. In October 1998, Mr. Eisner met Zhu Rongji, who had just been named prime minister, at China’s leadership compound in Beijing. Mr. Eisner apologized for “Kundun,” calling it a “stupid mistake,” according to a transcript of the meeting.

“This film was a form of insult to our friends, but other than journalists, very few people in the world ever saw it,” Mr. Eisner said during the meeting. (“Kundun” bombed, taking in just $5.7 million against a production budget of about $30 million.)

Mr. Eisner said the company had learned a lesson. And he introduced Mr. Iger, then Disney’s international president, as the person who would carry on negotiations for a theme park. The Chinese prime minister responded favorably. Land in Shanghai, he said, had already been set aside.

And just like that, the door to China started to reopen.

Hollywood Is Running Out of Villains
By Kal Raustiala

Many ingredients combine to give U.S. soft power its strength and reach, but entertainment and culture have always been central to the mix. Film and television have shaped how the world sees the United States—and how it perceives the country’s adversaries. Yet that unique advantage seems to be slipping away. When it comes to some of the great questions of global power politics today, Hollywood has become remarkably timid. On some issues, it has gone silent altogether.

It wasn’t always this way. In the 1930s, Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator took on Adolf Hitler. Later, Martin Scorsese’s Kundun shone a light on the fate of Tibet, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being and The Hunt for Red October made the Cold War come alive. Today, the market power of China—and the cyberpower of some rogue states—is making studios and creatives think twice about producing such daring, overtly political films. And as the retreat from the kind of films that once bolstered American soft power accelerates, Hollywood is running out of real-life antagonists.

Nazi troops were marching into Poland when Chaplin began filming The Great Dictator. The film’s titular character, a buffoonish, mustachioed dictator named Adenoid Hynkel, was clearly meant to deflate Hitler’s magnetic appeal. The British government, seeking to appease Germany, initially suggested it might ban the film from British theaters. (It changed its mind once the war commenced.) Even among Chaplin’s collaborators in Hollywood, some feared a backlash. (Hollywood also had a financial interest in reaching the large German film market, although historians debate how much this led American studios to bend to Nazi preferences in the 1930s.) U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt is said to have personally encouraged Chaplin to continue production. When the film was released in 1940, it proved an artistic and political triumph and was among the highest-grossing films of the year. Soon, overt condemnations of fascism were the norm: between 1942 and 1945, over half of all Hollywood films touched on the war in some way or another, hundreds of them with an anti-Nazi message.

With the Cold War came a new adversary against which to deploy the promise and glamor of American consumerism. Hollywood was on the frontlines of this effort. American films from the early years of the Cold War often brimmed with anti-Soviet jingoism. (I Was a Communist for the FBI, released in 1951, is a classic of the genre.) Indeed, nearly half of all war-themed movies coming out of Hollywood in the 1950s were made with the Pentagon’s assistance and vetting to ensure they were sufficiently patriotic. (To this day, the Pentagon and the CIA have active entertainment liaisons.) Even foreign productions were enlisted in the culture war against the Soviets: in 1954, when British animators adapted Animal Farm, George Orwell’s famous allegorical indictment of Stalinism, they enjoyed secret CIA funding.

By the 1960s, Hollywood productions began to cast the United States and its role in the world in a far more critical light. But even if it was not their intended effect, these films projected American values and bolstered U.S. soft power in their own way: by demonstrating Americans’ openness and tolerance for dissent. Dr. Strangelove called out the absurdity of apocalyptic nuclear confrontation. Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and even the popular TV series M*A*S*H presented nuanced and sometimes harrowing perspectives on U.S. power abroad.

Today, audiences can take their pick: there is no shortage of jingoistic U.S. films or televisions series, nor of material that challenges pro-American foreign policy orthodoxies. When it comes to how other great powers are portrayed, however, some hot-button topics are now off limits. American films dealing with the history and people of Tibet, a popular theme in the 1990s, have become a rare sight. There has never been a Hollywood feature film about the dramatic—and horrific—massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The 2012 remake of Red Dawn initially centered on a Chinese invasion in the United States but was later rewritten to make North Korea the aggressor instead of China. And Variety called the 2014 blockbuster Transformers: Age of Extinction “a splendidly patriotic film, if you happen to be Chinese.”

Across the board, film studios appear to take great care not to offend Chinese sensibilities. One scene in last year’s Abominable, coproduced by DreamWorks and the Shanghai-based Pearl Studio last year, featured a map showing the so-called nine-dash line, which represents China’s expansive—and highly contested—claims in the South China Sea. That same year, CBS censored its drama series The Good Fight, cutting a short scene that mentioned several topics that Beijing considers to be taboo, including the religious movement Falun Gong, Tiananmen, and Winnie the Pooh—a frequent and sly stand-in for Chinese President Xi Jinping on Chinese social media.

The most obvious reason for Hollywood’s timidity is the enormous size of China’s market. Unlike the Soviet Union during the Cold War, China is not only a geopolitical adversary but also a major economic partner. Its box office numbers will soon be the world’s largest. Hollywood never cared much about distributing its movies in the Soviet Union. The same isn’t true of China today.

The promise of Chinese funding is another potential reason for studios to toe the party line on sensitive political questions. The Shenzhen-based tech giant Tencent, for instance, is an investor in the highly anticipated remake of Top Gun. An early trailer for the movie shows Tom Cruise wearing his iconic flight jacket—but without the Taiwanese and Japanese flag patches that were sewn into the back in the original 1986 film. The world’s largest cinema chain, which includes the American subsidiary AMC Theatres, is now owned by the Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate. Foreign funders can be useful partners, but their presence, unsurprisingly, can also make producers wary of content that might displease their benefactors.

Eyeing big China box office, Hollywood bows to censorship: report

Screenwriters, producers and directors in the huge US film industry are changing scripts, deleting scenes and altering other content, afraid of offending Chinese censors who control the gateway to the country’s 1.4 billion consumers, according to the report released Wednesday.

The actions include everything from deleting the Taiwanese flag from Tom Cruise’s bomber jacket in the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick,” to removing China as the source of a zombie virus in 2013’s “World War Z.”

But it also means completely avoiding sensitive issues including Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong politics, Xinjiang and the portrayal of LGBTQ characters, the report said.

Faced with blacklisting and other punitive measures, Hollywood producers are even censoring films not targeting the Chinese market, in order to not impact others planned for Chinese theaters, Pen America says.

Censorship is now centralized under the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department, which decides whether a foreign film gets access to what is soon to be the world’s largest movie market.

Only a handful of foreign films are released in China each year.

The market’s importance is clear. Hollywood films like “Avengers: Endgame” and “Spider-Man: Far from Home” made more money in China than in the United States.

“The Chinese Communist Party, in fact, holds major sway over whether a Hollywood movie will be profitable or not — and studio executives know it,” the report said.

That explained why former Disney chief executive Michael Eisner apologized to Beijing after it banned the 1997 film “Kundun” about the Tibetan Dalai Lama, the report said.

And Richard Gere — star of the 1997 thriller “Red Corner,” which depicted a corrupt Chinese justice system, and a vocal advocate for human rights in Tibet — has said Hollywood producers avoid him so as to not provoke Beijing.

Increasingly, the report said, Hollywood people “voluntarily internalize these strictures, even without being asked.” Some even invite Chinese censors onto film sets.

One Hollywood producer told Pen: “If you come up with a project that is actively critical,” the fear is that “you or your company will actively be blacklisted, and they will interfere with your current or future project.”

Americans tune in to ‘cancel culture’ — and don’t like what they see
By Ryan Lizza

The POLITICO survey used a neutral definition of cancel culture adapted from its entry on “the practice of withdrawing support for (or canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.”

Cancel culture is generally discussed as being performed on social media in the form of group shaming. A plurality (46%) of Americans believe that cancel culture “has gone too far.” About a quarter of Americans — many of whom are perhaps blissfully offline — said they didn’t know or had no opinion on the matter. When they are removed from the results, a clear majority — across almost every demographic category — says that cancel culture has gone too far.

Twenty-seven percent of voters said cancel culture had a somewhat positive or very positive impact on society, but almost half (49%) said it had a somewhat negative or very negative impact.

While online shaming may seem like a major preoccupation for the public if you spend a lot of time on Twitter, only 40% of voters say they have participated in cancel culture and only one in 10 say they participate “often.” It appears to be more of a liberal pursuit: Half of Democrats have shared their dislike of a public figure on social media after they did something objectionable, while only a third of Republicans say they have.

Age is one of the most reliable predictors of one’s views. Members of Generation Z are the most sympathetic to punishing people or institutions over offensive views, followed closely by Millenials, while GenXers and Baby Boomers have the strongest antipathy towards it. Cancel culture is driven by younger voters. A majority (55%) of voters 18-34 say they have taken part in cancel culture, while only about a third (32%) of voters over 65 say they have joined a social media pile-on. The age gap may partially explain why Ernest Owens, a millennial journalist, responded to Obama’s criticism with a New York Times op-ed that amounted to a column-length retort of “OK, boomer.”

The poll also suggests that the public at large is more forgiving than the gladiators on social media. When asked about controversial or offensive statements from public figures, the longer ago the comment was made the less likely it mattered. Fifty-four percent said that a problematic statement made a year ago was likely to “completely” or “somewhat” change their opinion of the person, versus 29% who said it would “change a little bit” or “not change at all.”

For statements as far back as 15 years ago the results were almost reversed: 26% said there would be a change versus 53% who said there would be little or no change.

We asked about the Weiss resignation and the Harper’s letter. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed didn’t know about or had no opinion of the Weiss controversy and 42 percent didn’t know about or had no opinion of what, in the insular world of Acela corridor media, has become known as The Letter.

But in both of those cases for those Americans who did offer an opinion, the anti-cancel culture warriors had the majority view: 56% approved of The Letter and 70% approved of Weiss’s decision to quit “because of perceived harassment and her perception of self-censorship within the New York Times due to Twitter.”

In the POLITICO poll, 53% agreed with the statement that “even though free speech is protected, people should expect social consequences for expressing unpopular opinions in public, even those that are deeply offensive to other people,” while only 31% said their view was closer to the following: “There should not be social consequences for expressing unpopular opinions in public, even those that are deeply offensive to other people because free speech is protected.”

Americans are getting more nervous about what they say in public
By The Economist

A new survey from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, finds that 62% of Americans say they cannot express all of their views in today’s political climate, up from 58% in 2017.

Unsurprisingly, respondents from the two big parties are split on the issue. According to the Cato survey, roughly three-quarters of Republicans now believe they cannot share their political views, compared with a little more than half of Democrats. Four in ten Democrats say they would support the sacking of a business executive for donating money to Donald Trump’s election campaign; only two in ten Republicans would favour firing someone for giving cash to the Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden.

There is an educational divide, too. Although better-educated Americans are more likely to identify as Democrats, they are also more fearful of mis-speaking at work. Cato’s data show that 44% of respondents with postgraduate degrees fear they might lose their jobs if they made their political views known, compared with just 34% of people with bachelor’s degrees and 25% of those with no more than a high-school qualification. This may be because degree-holders are more likely to work in places dominated by leftists, where conservative views are marginalised. Only 25% of Democrats with advanced degrees are worried their political views could harm their employment, compared with 60% of Republicans.

Americans Are Self-Censoring at Record Rates
By James L. Gibson and Joseph L. Sutherland

Three of the clearest findings from our research are negative in nature. First, one might suspect that many people are afraid to speak out because they fear the coercive force of the government. But the data suggest that this is not the case. Among those who believe that the government might prohibit certain political activities, such as organizing protest marches and demonstrations, 40 percent engaged in self-censorship. Among those who believe that it would not, 41 percent did.

Second, there is no clear partisan pattern. The percentage of Democrats who are worried about speaking their mind is just about identical to the percentage of Republicans who self-censor: 39 and 40 percent, respectively.

Finally, there is no clear relationship between the intensity of people’s views and their tendency to self-censor. Not only are those with right-wing views as likely to self-censor as those with left-wing views; moderates are just as likely to self-censor as those who fall on either end of the ideological spectrum.

So what does predict who is reluctant to speak up? The answer is that Americans are more likely to self-censor the more urban and educated they are. In a surprising reversal of the usual trends of political participation, in which citizens who have more resources feel more empowered to take an active role in civic life, it is the urbanites and the highly educated who are most afraid to speak their mind.

Consider education. Those who are more highly educated are far more likely to censor their views than their less educated brethren. Among Americans without a high school diploma, for example, 27 percent self-censor. Among Americans who completed high school, this goes up to 34 percent. And among those who have attended college for at least a few years, 45 percent do. This suggests that Americans are socialized into learning to keep their mouth shut: the longer you spend in the educational system, the more you learn that it is appropriate to express some views, but not others.

Year Zero
By Matt Taibbi

The best explanation for these sudden reversals in rhetoric is that Trump broke the brains of America’s educated classes. Like Russian aristocrats who spent the last days of the Tsarist empire flocking to fortune-tellers and mystics, upscale blue-staters have lost themselves lately in quasi-religious tracts like White Fragility, and are lining up to flog themselves for personal and historical sins.

In desperation to help the country atone for their idea of why Trump happened, they’ve engaged in a sort of moon landing of anti-intellectual endeavors, committing a generation of minds to finding a solution to the one thing no thinking person ever considered a problem, i.e. the Enlightenment ideas that led to the American Revolution.

The same pols and pundits who not long ago were waving the flag for wars and insisting that American-style democracy was so perfectly realized that it made sense to bring it to all the peoples of the world, by force if needed (think Friedman’s hypothesis of a borderless utopia of forced wealth creation called the Golden Straitjacket), have now reversed course to tell us our entire history needs to be wiped clean.

Everything is a lie now. CNN even put “Independence” in quotes when describing the holiday today (i.e. “Reexamining ‘Independence’ Day”). This revolution will end with Wolf Blitzer pulling a switch to dynamite the Statue of Liberty. Even if America is an idea whose time is past, I doubt it deserves an ending this ridiculous.

Coronavirus crisis provides excuses for curbs on free speech
By Grant Peck and Preeyapa T. Khunsong

Health concerns were on artist Danai Ussama’s mind when he returned to Thailand last month from a trip to Spain. He noticed that he and his fellow passengers did not go through medical checks after arriving at Bangkok’s airport, and thought it worth noting on his Facebook page.

The airport authorities denied it, lodged a complaint with police, and he was arrested at his gallery in Phuket for violating the Computer Crime Act by allegedly posting false information — an offense punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 baht ($3,000).

Danai told The Associated Press that his Facebook post, though public, was really meant just for a small circle of 40 to 50 people. Instead it went viral.

He believes the government is afraid its opponents would use his observation as proof it was failing the fight against the coronavirus, and acted against him as a warning to others.

As governments across the world enact emergency measures to keep people at home and stave off the pandemic, some are unhappy about having their missteps publicized. Others are taking advantage of the crisis to silence critics and tighten control.

“COVID-19 poses significant threats to government and regime security as it has the potential to expose poor governance and lack of transparency on issues that affect every citizen in a given country,” said Aim Sinpeng, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Sydney.

“As the pandemic is a global issue and is constantly on the news around the world, governments have a harder time controlling messages to the public without exposing how little/how much they do in comparison to other countries around the world,” she said in an email interview.

Critic who called Xi a ‘clown’ over Covid-19 crisis investigated for ‘serious violations’
By Helen Davidson

Ren’s essay took aim at a speech Xi made on 23 February, and said it revealed a “crisis of governance” in the party. While it did not mention Xi by name, Ren reportedly wrote that he saw “not an emperor standing their exhibiting his ‘new clothes’, but a clown stripped naked who insisted on continuing being emperor”.

“The reality shown by this epidemic is that the party defends its own interests, the government officials defend their own interests, and the monarch only defends the status and interests of the core,” a translated version of the essay said.

In 2016, Ren was put on probation for a year as punishment for his public criticism of government policy. His social media accounts, which had tens of millions of followers, were shut down.

The Chinese government’s early handling of the coronavirus outbreak has been internationally and domestically criticised, after efforts to hide information and punish health workers who sought to warn colleagues emerged.

Widespread Outcry in China Over Death of Coronavirus Doctor
By Li Yuan

Dr. Li was reprimanded by the police after he shared concerns about the virus in a social messaging app with medical school classmates on Dec. 30.

Three days later, the police compelled him to sign a statement that his warning constituted “illegal behavior.”

The doctor eventually went public with his experiences and gave interviews to help the public better understand the unfolding epidemic. (The New York Times interviewed Dr. Li days before his death.)

“He didn’t want to become a hero, but for those of us in 2020, he had reached the upper limit of what we can imagine a hero would do,” one Weibo post read. The post is one of many that users say they wrote out of shame and guilt for not standing up to an authoritarian government, as Dr. Li did.

Many people posted a variation of a quote: “He who holds the firewood for the masses is the one who freezes to death in wind and snow.” The original version of the saying came from the Chinese writer Murong Xuecun about seven years ago when he and some friends were raising money for the families of political prisoners.

It was written as a reminder to people that it was in their interest to support those who dared to stand up to authority. Many of those people had frozen to death, figuratively speaking, as fewer people were willing to publicly support these dissenting figures.

‘Hero who told the truth’: Chinese rage over coronavirus death of whistleblower doctor
By Verna Yu

Li’s death became the top-read topic on China’s microblogging site Weibo overnight on Friday, with more than 1.5bn views, and was also heavily discussed in private WeChat messaging groups, where people expressed outrage and sadness.

Fearing that the uproar over Li’s death could spill over onto the streets, the authorities quickly deleted posts calling for action. A post forwarded on Wechat but now deleted said: “I hope one day we can stand on the street holding Li Wenliang’s picture.”

Doctors Keep Dying in Wuhan and Beijing Is Still Trying to Silence Them
By David Gilbert

Chinese President Xi Jinping finally visited the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan on Tuesday, declaring victory over the virus and lauding medical workers as “the most beautiful angels” and “messengers of light and hope.”

But back in Beijing, Xi’s army of censors was working overtime to once again silence a doctor who was speaking about the regime’s mishandling of the outbreak, and about efforts to muzzle doctors who were trying to raise the alarm.

If I had known what was to happen, I would not have cared. I would have fucking talked about it to whoever, where ever I could,” Ai Fen, a doctor at Wuhan’s Central Hospital told Chinese magazine Renwu. The article containing her comments was published on the magazine’s website Tuesday — and subsequently deleted..

Ai’s account of how she tried to alert her superiors about the growing coronavirus threat in December but was rebuked and told to stay quiet was posted on WeChat at the same time, and it went viral.

But almost immediately, the post was censored and effectively removed from the social network.

But WeChat users were determined for the article to be widely read, and reposted the story continuously. When that didn’t work, they wrote it backward and translated it into English, German and Japanese, in a bid to fool the censorship algorithms.

Some users even rewrote the article using pinyin, emoji, braille, and morse code.

Ai’s interview was published just 24 hours after a fourth colleague of hers died in Wuhan’s Central Hospital, where two more doctors remain in a critical condition.

Ophthalmologist Zhu Heping this week became the fourth doctor at the hospital to succumb to the disease. It’s the same hospital where Li Wenliang, the doctor who became a household name after he tried to raise the alarm about the disease in late December, but was silenced by police in the city, died last month after contracting the disease from a patient he was treating.

According to data collected by Caixin, the Central Hospital has been the hardest hit of all medical facilities in Wuhan, with 230 of its 4,000 medical staff diagnosed with COVID-19. The high rate of infection there is leading more and more frontline staff to speak out.

“The false information released by the relevant departments — claiming the disease was controllable and would not spread from human-to-human — left hundreds of doctors and nurses in the dark, doing all they could to treat patients without knowing about the epidemic,” a Central Hospital department head, speaking anonymously to Caixin, said.

“And even when they fell ill, they could not report it. They could not alert their colleagues and the public in time despite their sacrifice. This is the most painful loss and lesson.”

In her interview, Ai says she now deeply regrets that she didn’t persist and keep blowing the whistle. If she had, she says, the government might have imposed its aggressive measures earlier, and many of her patients and colleagues might have lived.

One reader comment posted under Ai’s account was shared widely on WeChat, before it too, was censored.

“The doctor is risking her job to take the interview, the reporter is risking being charged with fabricating rumors to write the article, media is risking being shut down to publish the article, and people on WeChat are risking having their accounts blocked to spread that article. Today we need this ridiculous level of tacit cooperation just for a word of truth.”

China detains Xu Zhangrun, leading critic of President Xi Jinping
By Gerry Shih

Chinese police on Monday seized Tsinghua University professor and essayist Xu Zhangrun, silencing one of the last voices within China’s besieged intellectual circles who dared to openly and persistently criticize President Xi Jinping’s leadership.

Xu’s arrest in Beijing’s outskirts came five months after he published a lengthy essay pleading with political leaders to conduct an open investigation into the coverup of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and reverse what he characterized as the country’s spiral into tyranny. What began as a local outbreak was exacerbated by a political system that stifled whistleblowers and the “rot goes right up to Beijing,” Xu wrote in his February piece, which he predicted might be “the last thing I write.”

Friends in Beijing, some speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said Xu was taken early Monday. A widely circulated statement on social media from Xu’s friends, which could not be independently confirmed, said his home was surrounded by 20 police officers, who took away Xu and his computer.

Tsinghua University’s Law Department, where Xu taught constitutional law until he was demoted last year for his political writing, said Monday that it was “not clear” about Xu’s situation. The Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau declined to comment.

‘Orwellian’ China silencing dissent at home and abroad, says human rights chief
By Associated Press

In the essay, Roth said the Chinese Communist Party is “worried that permitting political freedom would jeopardise its grasp on power” and “is running scared of its own people”.

“The consequence under President Xi Jinping is China’s most pervasive and brutal oppression in decades,” he said.

To avoid a global backlash against its surveillance, internet censorship and oppression at home, Roth said the government was trying to undermine international institutions designed to protect human rights.

Roth criticised UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, saying despite the UN’s central role in promoting human rights, he has been “unwilling to publicly demand an end to China’s mass detention of Turkic Muslims, while heaping praise on Beijing’s economic prowess”.

Roth said the report showed China wasn’t the only threat to human rights, pointing to serious violations by the warring parties in Syria and Yemen.

He also cited “autocratic populists” who come to power by demonising minorities and retain it by attacking independent journalists, judges and activists who try to provide checks and balances on their rule.

“Some leaders, such as US president Donald Trump, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, bridle at the same body of international human rights law that China undermines,” Roth said.

China Wants the World to Stay Silent on Muslim Camps. It’s Succeeding.
By Jane Perlez

When Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, visited Beijing this summer, he hailed a new Silk Road bridging Asia and Europe. He welcomed big Chinese investments for his beleaguered economy. He gushed about China’s sovereignty.

But Mr. Erdogan, who has stridently promoted Islamic values in his overwhelmingly Muslim country, was largely silent on the incarceration of more than one million Turkic Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang, and the forced assimilation of millions more. It was an about-face from a decade ago, when he said the Uighurs there suffered from, “simply put, genocide” at the hands of the Chinese government.

Like Mr. Erdogan, the world has been noticeably quiet about Xinjiang, where China has built a vast network of detention camps and systematic surveillance over the past two years in a state-led operation to convert Uighurs into loyal, secular supporters of the Communist Party. Even when diplomats have witnessed the problems firsthand and privately condemned them, they have been reluctant to go public, unable to garner broad support or unwilling to risk financial ties with China.

Some governments tiptoe around China for economic reasons. When New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, visited Beijing shortly after the massacre of 51 Muslims in Christchurch, she said she had discussed Xinjiang privately with China’s president Xi Jinping. She didn’t do much more. New Zealand sells much of its main exports, such as milk, meat and wine, to China.

Last year, China helped Turkey secure a $3.6 billion loan for energy and transportation. Since then, the Turkish economy has further faltered. And during Mr. Erdogan’s visit to Beijing in July, Mr. Xi praised him for supporting what he called China’s core interests, including Xinjiang.

When countries do criticize China, they tend to do so in a group, seemingly as a way to diffuse and lessen possible retribution.

In Geneva this summer, nearly two dozen, mostly Western, countries, along with Japan, banded together at the United Nations Human Rights Council to call on China to close the camps. No one country was willing to be the organizer. Instead, the statement’s signers relied on a rarely used procedure that allowed it to be circulated without a principal leader.

Not to be outmaneuvered by the critics, China quickly prepared a counter-roster of 37 friendly nations praising its “contribution to the international human rights cause.” Among the cheerleaders were members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that unanimously endorsed China’s Xinjiang policies in April.

Beijing’s Global Megaphone
By Sarah Cook

Coverage of the potential downsides of China’s foreign investments has been stifled in some countries. And Chinese state media content reaches hundreds of millions of television viewers, radio listeners, and social media users abroad, in many cases without transparency as to its origins. At the same time, ongoing efforts to co-opt or marginalize independent Chinese diaspora news outlets and censor critical views on Chinese-owned social media platforms like Tencent’s WeChat have reduced overseas Chinese audiences’ access to unbiased information about events in China, their home countries’ relationship with Beijing, and other topics of relevance to their day-to-day lives. More broadly, many of the tactics that the CCP employs to influence media around the world also serve to undermine international norms and fundamental features of democratic governance, including transparency, the rule of law, and fair competition.

Evidence has also emerged of multimillion-dollar contracts issued by outlets like Xinhua and China News Service to add followers and build influence on Twitter, which, ironically, is blocked in China.

… Chinese state media have also used more unusual and arguably more opaque methods to exploit foreign media outlets. Chinese officials and state media documents have referred to this practice as “borrowing the boat to reach the sea” (借船出海). One of the most prominent examples is the periodic inclusion of a paid news-like advertising supplement from China Daily called China Watch in the print editions of papers like the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. Similar advertorial inserts have appeared in major newspapers in other parts of the world, including in Spain, the United Kingdom, … Australia, … Argentina, Peru, … Senegal, … and India. … In the case of the Washington Post and some other publications , China Watch also appears as an online feature, further blurring the lines between Chinese state media content and the host outlet’s own reporting.

In August, Twitter announced that it had taken down over 900 accounts that were used as part of a Chinese state-directed disinformation campaign to undermine the credibility of antigovernment protesters in Hong Kong, and that it had also removed 200,000 new accounts associated with the network. … Facebook and YouTube announced similar account takedowns, but on a smaller scale. … Importantly, the social media firms published data about the accounts and the content they shared.

Analysis by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and the New York Times revealed additional details about the tactics and targets of the Twitter network. … They found that the same network had been active since mid-2017 and had previously been mobilized to smear a wide a range of Chinese government critics located inside and outside China. These included US-based democracy activist Yang Jianli, self-exiled billionaire Guo Wengui, detained bookseller and Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, arrested human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng, and Chinese military veterans who were detained for protesting over unpaid benefits. It was only after all of these campaigns that the network turned its focus to the Hong Kong protesters and attracted Twitter’s attention, resulting in its dismantling.

In Taiwan, where the Chinese social media operations are already more coordinated and sophisticated than those deployed globally, observers note that the disinformation is becoming harder to detect, particularly as the content shifts from simplified to traditional Chinese. … Moreover, despite Twitter’s actions to remove the China-linked network, Chinese state-affiliated trolls are still apparently operating on the platform in large numbers. In the hours and days after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong protesters in October 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported, nearly 170,000 tweets were directed at Morey by users who seemed to be based in China as part of a coordinated intimidation campaign. … Meanwhile, there have been multiple suspected efforts by pro-Beijing trolls to manipulate the ranking of content on popular sources of information outside China, including Google’s search engine, … Reddit, … and YouTube. …

In Hong Kong, a Proxy Battle Over Internet Freedom Begins
By Paul Mozur

Long a bastion of online freedom on the digital border of China’s tightly managed internet, Hong Kong’s uneasy status changed radically in just a week. The new law mandates police censorship and covert digital surveillance, rules that can be applied to online speech across the world.

Now, the Hong Kong government is crafting web controls to appease the most prolific censor on the planet, the Chinese Communist Party. And the changes threaten to further inflame tensions between China and the United States, in which technology itself has become a means by which the two economic superpowers seek to spread influence and undercut each other.

Caught in the middle are the city’s seven million residents, online records of rollicking political debate — some of which may now be illegal — and the world’s largest internet companies, which host, and by extension guard, that data.

A standoff is already brewing. Many big tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Zoom and LinkedIn, have said in the past two days that they would temporarily stop complying with requests for user data from the Hong Kong authorities. The Hong Kong government, in turn, has made it clear that the penalty for noncompliance with the law could include jail time for company employees.

Based on the law, the Hong Kong authorities can dictate the way people around the world talk about the city’s contested politics. A Facebook employee could potentially be arrested in Hong Kong if the company failed to hand over user data on someone based in the United States whom Chinese authorities deemed a threat to national security.

“If Facebook refuses to give national security data, its service may be terminated in Hong Kong, and it will lose access to the Hong Kong market,” said Glacier Kwong of Keyboard Frontline, a nongovernmental organization that monitors digital rights in Hong Kong.

“It’s not impossible that this will happen,” Ms. Kwong added. “China often uses its market and boycotting to make foreign companies listen to their demands.”

The new law could punish the company with fines, equipment seizures and arrests if it again declines such requests. It also would allow the police to potentially seize equipment from companies that host such content.

“We see the trend. It’s not just that they’re making more requests, it’s the growing power in the hands of the authorities to do this arbitrarily,” Mr. Mok said, adding that “some of the local smaller platforms will be worried about the legal consequences and they may comply” with government requests.

Individuals, as well, have taken to self-censorship. Many have taken down posts, removed “likes” for some pro-democracy pages and even deleted accounts on platforms like Twitter, according to activists. Fears that WhatsApp would hand over data also drove people to switch to downloading a rival encrypted chat app, Signal. WhatsApp, though, had no recent data requests from Hong Kong police, according to a person familiar with the matter.

People in Hong Kong have also quickly embraced the types of coded online speech that flourish in China, where internet police and censors patrol the web. One slogan, which the authorities have said could be illegal, was changed from “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” to “shopping in Hong Kong, Times Square,” a reference to a local shopping mall.

In other cases, posters abbreviated the slogan based on Cantonese phonetics, writing simply “GFHG, SDGM.” The unofficial anthem of the protests, “Glory to Hong Kong,” has had its lyrics converted into numbers that sound roughly like the lyrics. “05 432 680, 04 640 0242,” goes the opening.

4 Hong Kong Activists Arrested for Online Posts Under New Security Law
By Austin Ramzy, Elaine Yu and Tiffany May

Officials on Thursday barred 12 candidates, including well-known pro-democracy figures, from the September legislative election. The disqualifications came a day after the police made what appeared to be the first targeted arrests of four activists accused of posting pro-independence messages online.

The police said the activists, three men and one woman whose ages range from 16 to 21, were arrested in the New Territories area of Hong Kong for the “publishing of content about secession, and inciting or abetting others for the commission of secession.” Officers seized mobile phones, computers and documents during the roundup.

The law had already been cited in the arrests of about a dozen people during several demonstrations, including on July 1, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese control. Human rights groups denounced those street arrests, saying they showed that the authorities intended to use the new powers to clamp down on peaceful activities. The Wednesday arrests, rights groups said, sent another chilling message and raised concerns about a crackdown on activism and political speech in Hong Kong.

“The gross misuse of this draconian law makes clear that the aim is to silence dissent, not protect national security,” said Sophie Richardson, the China director for Human Rights Watch.

Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under security law, bearing out ‘worst fears’
By Greg Torode and James Pomfret

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai became the highest-profile person arrested under a new national security law on Monday, detained over suspected collusion with foreign forces as around 200 police searched the offices of his Apple Daily newspaper.

Mainland-born Lai, who was smuggled into the British colony of Hong Kong on a fishing boat when he was a penniless 12-year-old, has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in the now Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Beijing.

Arrested HK tycoon tells protesters to be ‘careful’
By BBC News

Speaking after his release on bail, Mr Lai told the BBC he believed his arrest was “just the beginning”.

While he had been arrested before, this was “more scary” because it came under the national security law imposed by China, he said.

Both his sons were also arrested on “bogus charges”, he said, although he added that he had no regrets about his pro-democracy activism.

“When I was in custody I could not sleep… I was thinking, if I knew that was going to happen to me now, [with] even more hardship [on the way], would I have done the same thing?

“I would not have [done things] another way – this is my character,” he added.

However, he warned protesters that they would now have to be “more cautious in our resistance to preserve our rule of law and freedom”, as the sweeping new security law made the environment more dangerous for activists.

“We have to be more careful and creative in [our] resistance… we can’t be as radical as before – especially young people – because the more radical [we are] the shorter lifespan we have in our fighting.

“We have to really use our brain and patience, because this is a long fight.”

Hong Kong University sacks veteran democracy activist
By Reuters

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) on Tuesday sacked veteran pro-democracy activist Benny Tai from his tenured position as an associate professor of law, a move he called “the end of academic freedom” in the Chinese-ruled city.

Tai was a leading figure in Hong Kong’s 2014 “Umbrella” protests, which paralysed the city for 79 days as demonstrators occupied main roads demanding greater democracy.

He was sentenced to 16 months in prison last year for two public nuisance offences, but released on bail pending an appeal – a conviction that prompted HKU to begin reviewing his position.

Tuesday’s decision by the governing council reversed an earlier decision by the university senate that there were not enough grounds for a dismissal.

“It marks the end of academic freedom in Hong Kong,” Tai said on Facebook. “Academic institutions in Hong Kong cannot protect their members from internal and outside interferences.”

At the University of North Texas, the Mob Comes Calling for a Music Theorist
By Samantha Harris

Chances are you have never heard of the music theorist Heinrich Schenker or the Journal of Schenkerian Studies, a publication at the University of North Texas (UNT) devoted to “all facets of Schenkerian thought, including theory, analysis, pedagogy, and historical aspects.” But that journal, and, in particular, the UNT music-theory professor Timothy Jackson, who oversees it, are now at the center of a controversy that goes to the heart of whether we are truly a free society. Can people speak their minds, or will those who express dissenting opinions be destroyed by a mob they can neither challenge nor resist?

In the most recent issue of the Journal of Schenkerian Studies, Jackson published a critique of a plenary address given by the music theorist Philip Ewell to the Society for Music Theory. Ewell posited “a ‘white racial frame’ in music theory that is structural and institutionalized.” In particular, Ewell accused Schenker (1868–1935) of being racist, therefore suggesting that his work in music theory is tainted.

For Jackson to have questioned Ewell’s thesis and defended Schenker against the charge of racism was seen as nothing short of heresy. UNT graduate students and faculty, as well as music professors across the country, are now demanding that Jackson be investigated, his journal shut down, and his position eliminated. A group of graduate students in UNT’s Division of Music History, Theory, and Ethnomusicology issued a statement calling on the university to “hold accountable every person responsible for the direction of the publication” of the journal. “This should also extend to investigating past bigoted behaviors by faculty,” they wrote, “and, by taking this into account, the discipline and potential removal of faculty who used the [Journal of Schenkerian Studies] platform to promote racism. Specifically, the actions of Dr. Jackson — both past and present — are particularly racist and unacceptable.” A group of UNT faculty piled on, circulating a petition “endors[ing] the call for action” by the graduate students.

In other words, these students and faculty are not only calling for Jackson’s head for expressing his views in his journal article, they want the university to launch a witch hunt to see what else they can dig up on him. And today, the dean of the UNT College of Music, John Richmond, announced that UNT is opening that investigation in the name of “reaffirm[ing] our dedication to combatting [sic] racism on campus and across all academic disciplines.”

Any professor in Jackson’s position — that of stating a view that goes against prevailing campus opinion — should be terrified. College administrators are not exactly profiles in courage when it comes to standing up to the mob, typically preferring to roll over in the hopes that they won’t be next. (Spoiler alert: They will be next.)

Adjunct professor who jokingly said Iran should list 52 U.S. cultural sites to bomb has been fired
By Teo Armus

In an uneasy moment, Asheen Phansey was trying to be funny.

Amid recent tensions between Washington and Tehran, during which President Trump threatened to target 52 sites “important to Iran & the Iranian culture,” Phansey suggested that Iran’s supreme leader might want to do the same ― and get specific.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “should tweet a list of 52 sites of cultural American heritage that he would bomb,” Phansey, an adjunct professor and administrator at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., wrote on Facebook earlier this week. “Um … Mall of America? … Kardashian residence?”

Phansey would later describe the post as “a bad attempt at humor,” telling Boston news outlets that he was only poking fun at the nation’s relative lack of ancient culture. But his apology couldn’t save his job: The business school announced Thursday that it had fired him.

“This particular post from a staff member on his personal Facebook page clearly does not represent the values and culture of Babson College,” it said in a statement.

Phansey expressed regret that Babson did not come to his defense — and instead fired him “just because people willfully misinterpreted a joke I made to my friends on Facebook,” he told to the Boston Herald.

The incident marks the most recent instance of professors drawing flak for their commentary on current events, particularly as questions of academic freedom and free speech play out in an increasingly volatile era of politics and policy.

While decades of First Amendment case law prevents officials at public universities from restricting what their employees can say, or punishing them for expressing their views, private schools like Babson have much greater leeway. So when academics have made controversial posts on social media about any number of news items — mass shootings, the death of former first lady Barbara Bush or North Korea’s imprisonment of Otto Warmbier — their posts have resulted in a range of disciplinary outcomes.

A Twitter Mob Takes Down an Administrator at Michigan State
By Jillian Kay Melchior

‘We are scientists, seeking truth,” Michigan State University physicist Stephen Hsu wrote in a 2018 blog post. “We are not slaves to ideological conformity.” That might have been too optimistic. Last week MSU’s president, Samuel L. Stanley Jr., yielded to a pressure campaign, based in part on that post, and asked Mr. Hsu to resign as senior vice president for research and innovation.

Kevin Bird, president of the Graduate Employees Union, denies that the successful campaign to oust Mr. Hsu from the administration will have a chilling effect on free speech and inquiry. Mr. Bird said that he hadn’t called for Mr. Hsu to lose tenure, and “if there’s a campaign for that, I won’t be a part of it.” But senior vice president is “this really powerful administrative role,” and “the way his beliefs were expressed made it seem like he had no concern for increasing diversity.” So Mr. Hsu had to go. “I don’t personally believe that kind of enforcing a higher conduct to administrators will necessarily chill faculty,” Mr. Bird says.

Mr. Cesario disagrees. It’s “bad or worse that they are doing this to an administrator,” he says. “If anybody should be allowed to explore all topics, speak on all topics, and go where the data leads them, it’s administrators.” He expects the activists who won Mr. Hsu’s dismissal won’t stop “pushing for a narrowing of what kinds of topics people can talk about, or what kinds of conclusions people can come to.” The number of administrators willing to defend scientific inquiry, Mr. Cesario adds, is “now down by one.”

Spied on. Fired. Publicly shamed. China’s crackdown on professors reminds many of Mao era
By Alice Su

The professor was under surveillance. Cameras taped her every lecture. She couldn’t publish or give talks outside the university. She knew she had to be careful when she taught on one of China’s most sensitive and dangerous topics: the Cultural Revolution.

Despite such scrutiny, Sun Peidong felt lucky to be teaching in Shanghai’s prestigious Fudan University, the only school left in China offering truthful courses on the repressive Cultural Revolution of half a century ago. She loved watching her students question conventional narratives, find new ways of understanding their nation’s history, and draw connections with their own families’ traumas.

Then the students turned her in.

Sun is among a growing number of university professors who have been targeted and punished for “improper speech” in recent years, part of a Chinese Communist Party drive to tighten ideological control.

Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, the party banned discussion in 2013 of “Western concepts” such as universal values, a free press, civil society and the party’s historical errors. In 2018, teachers from kindergarten through university were ordered to adhere to “Xi Jinping thought” and defend the party.

Those guidelines have hardened during a nationalist surge around the coronavirus pandemic, leading to public shaming of intellectuals that remind many of the Mao era.

Professors have been betrayed by their own students or attacked online, then formally punished: In February, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences fired Zhou Peiyi, a visiting lecturer from Hong Kong, after she criticized China’s coronavirus response on social media.

Last week, Hubei University fired literature professor Liang Yanping and revoked her party membership for publishing “incorrect speech” on social media related to Japan and Hong Kong. At least two other professors in Hainan and Harbin are under investigation for similar reasons.

Liang had been harangued online for supporting Wuhan novelist Fang Fang, whose coronavirus lockdown diary — at first embraced as an honest depiction of people’s suffering — became a target of nationalist anger once it was published in English.

Critics accuse Fang Fang of “handing a knife” to Western countries to smear China. They have sent her death threats and condemned her supporters, digging through their old social media posts to find anything that deviates from the party line.

For Fang Fang, 65, whose real name is Wang Fang, the crackdown is a continuation of the ideology that drove China’s Cultural Revolution — a period of radical violence under Mao Zedong’s leadership, when youth militias roamed the nation denouncing and often killing intellectuals, authority figures and anyone labeled a “class enemy.” It is also, she noted, a failure to confront the damage that legacy did.

As a sociologist, Guo said, her job was to tell the truth — not to project “positive energy,” as the propaganda department expected, but to be like a doctor, finding the symptoms of a society’s illness and diagnosing its cause.

“If you won’t even let us tell the truth and we just follow you, singing songs and speaking lies, then we are not scholars, we are not academics, this is not sociology,” she said. “What’s the point?”

This year, Sun quit her job and left China. There is no free space left, she said.

There were only two other history professors teaching the Cultural Revolution at Fudan. One is retiring this year, and the other has been pressured into changing what he teaches.

“That’s what the party wants,” Sun said: either praise or silence.

At least 238 writers and intellectuals were detained for their work last year, advocacy group says
By Siobhán O’Grady

At least 238 writers, academics and intellectuals around the world were detained in connection to their work last year, according to a report released Tuesday by PEN America, a freedom of expression advocacy group.

The imprisonments and detentions occurred in 34 countries, although the majority took place in just three — China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Those same countries are also among the top jailers of journalists worldwide, according to the 2019 Committee to Protect Journalists prison census.

PEN America, which tracks threats against writers worldwide, said it launched the index and a new Writers at Risk database to illustrate a growing trend of government leaders clamping down on creative thinkers and intellectuals in an “attempt to quash criticism, clamp down on independent voices and gain control of cultural and historical narratives.”

Through their work, writers and intellectuals often offer new perspectives and pave the way for “citizens in repressive societies to envision a different future,” the report said.

2010s = 1984: The decade we finally understood Orwell
By Chris Taylor

Orwell, aka Eric Blair, a socialist freedom fighter and a repentant former colonial officer who had a lifelong fascination with language and politics, knew that no control could be total until you colonized people’s heads too. A state like his could only exist with loud, constant, and obvious lies.

To be a totalitarian, he knew from his contemporary totalitarians, you had to seize control of truth itself. You had to redefine truth as “whatever we say it is.” You had to falsify memories and photos and rewrite documents. Your people could be aware that all this was going on, so long as they kept that awareness to themselves and carried on (which is what doublethink is all about).

The book-within-a-book that explains the shape of Winston’s world turns out to be written by O’Brien, the master liar. The rocket bombs dropping on London are dropped by the Party. All the in-universe truth the reader has to go on is Winston’s word, and by the end — as he is tortured into genuinely seeing O’Brien hold up three fingers instead of two, then thinks he hears news of a final victory in the endless war — even that isn’t reliable.

If we can’t agree on basic facts of science and history, we’re lost. But if we the people can do that, there’s no surveillance system or endless war or sexcrime we can’t dismantle. “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four,” Winston wrote in his diary. “If that is granted, all else follows.”

To unite the country, we need honesty and courage
By Robert P. George and Cornel West

We need the honesty and courage to speak the truth — including painful truths that unsettle not only our foes but also our friends and, most especially, ourselves.

We need the honesty and courage to honor the contributions of the great men and women who have come before us — those who articulated and defended true principles of justice and the common good, built or helped to preserve worthy institutions, and modeled important virtues.

We need the honesty and courage to recognize the faults, flaws, and failings of even the greatest of our heroes — and to acknowledge our own faults, flaws, and failings.

We need the honesty and courage to recognize progress toward the ideal of equal justice and movement toward the common good that our civilization and nation have made — and the blows against injustice, oppression, and tyranny we as a people have struck, sometimes at incalculable costs of blood and treasure.

We need the honesty and courage to recognize the blights on our history, the grave wrongs that have been done, reflecting the failure of our leaders and institutions — and our own failures — to honor our principles of liberty and justice for all.

We need the honesty and courage to express dissent — to say, “No, I will not go along” — when conscience tells us that our own ideological or political tribe has gone astray or gone too far or become fanatical and blind to integrity and the dignity of all.

We need the honesty and courage to stand up — to stand alone, if necessary — to speak the truth, as God gives us to see the truth, to the politically, economically, and culturally powerful as well as to the relatively powerless.

We need the honesty and courage to think first of the weak, the poor, the vulnerable, and the impact on them, for good or for ill, of our own actions; the actions of institutions — be they economic, social, educational, or philanthropic — in which we play a role; and the actions of government at all levels. This will not generate unanimity as to what policies are best. Reasonable people of good will will often disagree. But this can — and we believe must — be a starting point on which there is common ground.

We need the honesty and courage not to compromise our beliefs or go silent on them out of a desire to be accepted, or out of fear of being ostracized, excluded, or canceled.

We need the honesty and courage to consider with an open mind and heart points of view that challenge our beliefs — even our deepest, most cherished identity-forming beliefs. We need the intellectual humility to recognize our own fallibility — and that, too, requires honesty and courage.

Law & Order in Medieval England
By Jeff Neal

HLT: Professor Martha Minow’s new book, “When Should Law Forgive?” explores how forgiveness can be an integral aspect of achieving justice. Hearing about how thoughtfully medieval English juries approached the work of judging felony crimes, I wonder what role forgiveness played in their deliberations. Can we draw any parallels?

Kamali: I’m often asked whether there are lessons for today that can be drawn from my book. One of those lessons is not that we should adopt the medieval system of felony adjudication with the gallows for all who are convicted!

But perhaps we can learn something from our common-law ancestors. Medieval English texts emphasize the redemptive potential of humanity and the idea that it’s very hard to judge another person’s mind. In fact, we can really get that wrong. Only God, they believed, could fully judge a person’s mind and heart. Moreover, a person who is truly wicked today could become a saint tomorrow, and the converse of that.

Saint Augustine would be an incredible example. He had his mother Monica pestering him relentlessly to get him on the path towards sanctity, a path he describes in his famous “Confessions.” Another example would be Saint Paul, who started off as a persecutor of Christians, and then became one of the pillars of the church. On the flipside, you have someone like Judas, who began as an apostle of Jesus, and then took a path that carried him away from redemption.

In addition, the Catholic sacrament of confession is based on the idea that a person might commit sins that could send them to hell. However, if the person were truly contrite and made a clean breast of it, confessed fully, vowed to make penance, and received absolution, they walked out of that church a new person, and with a clean slate to start again.

That way of thinking is something we could use a little more of today in our secular society—the idea of second chances, and of not writing people off when we perceive that they have done something very harmful. There is redemptive potential in everyone.

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