Monday 11/21/16

  1. Racists and existential threats
  2. Forensic science on parade
  3. The illiberal foundations of liberalism
  4. All they want for Christmas is a white ethno-state
  5. “Christians” felt great on 11/9/16?

Tertiary Things

1

If “racist” is now the leftish adult playground version of “poopy-head,” surely “existential threat to the United States” is the hawkish version of “An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you Ef you Don’t Watch Out!

2

I also started understanding how science could be used as an instrument of deception — and to create or perpetuate ignorance …

The denialist conspiracy of the cigarette industry was crucial in this context, since science was one of the instruments used by Big Tobacco to carry out its denial (and distraction) campaign. Cigarette makers had met at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on Dec. 14, 1953, to plan a strategy to rebut the evidence that cigarettes were causing cancer and other maladies. The strategy was pure genius: The claim would be that it had not been “proved” that cigarettes really cause disease, so there was room for honest doubt. Cigarette makers promised to finance research to get to the truth, while privately acknowledging (in a notorious Brown & Williamson document from 1969) that “Doubt is our product.”

For decades thereafter, cigarette makers poured hundreds of millions of dollars into basic biomedical research, exploring things like genetic and viral or occupational causes of cancer — anything but tobacco. Research financed by the industry led to over 7,000 publications in peer-reviewed medical literature and 10 Nobel Prizes. Including consulting relationships, my research shows that at least 25 Nobel laureates have taken money from the cigarette industry over the past half-century. (Full disclosure: I’ve testified against that industry in dozens of tobacco trials.)

Now we know that many other industries have learned from Big Tobacco’s playbook. Physicians hired by the National Football League have questioned the evidence that concussions can cause brain disease, and soda sellers have financed research to deny that sugar causes obesity. And climate deniers have conducted a kind of scavenger hunt for oddities that appear to challenge the overwhelming consensus of climate scientists.

We now live in a world where ignorance of a very dangerous sort is being deliberately manufactured, to protect certain kinds of unfettered corporate enterprise. The global climate catastrophe gets short shrift, largely because powerful fossil fuel producers still have enormous political clout, following decades-long campaigns to sow doubt about whether anthropogenic emissions are really causing planetary warming.

(Robert N. Proctor)

3

[I]dentitarian liberalism is taking fire from two directions. From the center-left, it’s critiqued as an illiberal and balkanizing force, which drives whit-cis-het people of good will rightward and prevents liberalism from speaking a language of the common good. From the left, it’s critiqued as an expression of class privilege, which cares little for economic justice so long as black lesbian Sufis are represented in the latest Netflix superhero show.

Both of these critiques make reasonable points. But I’m not sure they fully grasp the pull of an identitarian politics, the energy that has elevated it above class-based and procedural visions of liberalism.

It’s true that identity politics is often illiberal, both in its emphasis on group experience over individualism and, in the web of moral absolutes — taboo words, sacred speakers, forbidden arguments — that it seeks to weave around left-liberal discourse. It’s also true that it privileges the metaphysical over the material, recognition over redistribution.

But liberal societies have always depended on an illiberal or pre-liberal substructure to answer the varied human needs — meaning, belonging, a vertical dimension to human life, a hope against mortality …

In American history, that substructure took various forms: The bonds of family life, the power of (usually Protestant) religion, a flag-waving patriotism, and an Anglo-Saxon culture to which immigrants were expected to assimilate.

Each of these foundations often manifested illiberalism’s evils: religious intolerance, racism and chauvinism, the oppressions of private and domestic power. But they also provided the moral, cultural and metaphysical common ground that political reformers — abolitionists, Social Gospellers, New Dealers, civil rights marchers — relied upon to expand liberalism’s promise.

Much of post-1960s liberal politics, by contrast, has been an experiment in cutting Western societies loose from those foundations, set to the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” …

Unfortunately the values of “Imagine” are simply not sufficient to the needs of human life ….

(Ross Douthat)

4

New York Times news story on the alt-right, gathering in DC for an anticipated post-mortem, but instead finding themselves, they think, ascendant:

The movement has been critical of politicians of all stripes for promoting diversity, immigration and perceived political correctness. Its critics call it a rebranded version of the Ku Klux Klan, promoting anti-Semitism, violence and suppression of minorities.

Intellectual leaders of the movement argue that they are merely trying to realize their desire for a white “ethno-state” where they can be left alone. Mr. Trump, with his divisive language about immigrants and Muslims, has given them hope that these dreams can come true.

Oh. That’s all they want? I feel so much better now.

On the other hand, I cannot dismiss the wisdom of a policy just because it emboldens the wrong people.

5

I thought the title (In the age of Trump, what is a Christian?) posed a pretty silly question. The answer: “same thing ‘Christian’ has always been.” But the column wasn’t too bad:

[A]n article this week by The Post’s Julie Zauzmer… described jubilation among some Christians over Donald Trump’s victory — a win supported by more than 80 percent of white evangelicals.

“It really makes you feel great to be a Christian,” one person told The Post. “I think Christians took a big stand this time and said we’re going to stand up for our faith,” said a second. Referring to Trump, a third said, “I feel like we actually have an advocate now in the White House.”

Those attitudes are reflected in a Pew Research Center analysis of exit poll results, which show that high numbers of white, born-again evangelical Christians, as well as a majority of Catholics, went for Trump.

That notwithstanding, CNN exit polls also showed that 59 percent of nonwhite evangelical Protestants, 45 percent of Catholics and 71 percent of Jewish voters backed Hillary Clinton.

Yes, white Evangelicals tend illegitimately and reflexively to co-opt the term “Christian.” For non-white and non-Evangelical Christians, that habit is variously amusing or infuriating — amusing in its provincialism, infuriating in its tendency to move Christianity off the table as an option for serious people.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.