Thursday, 11/30/17


  1. Tipsy the Niehburian
  2. Pretext: Veritas
  3. The Last words of Gary, now an unperson
  4. A discrimination law hypothetical
  5. Why Jack Phillips should win


I’m reminded this Wednesday morning as I write that I am an unwitting Niehburian, in that Niehbur’s Irony of American History is the unacknowledged subtext of much that I write—maybe most.

I can be forgiven the lack of acknowledgement, I hope, because although I own the book, I’m pretty sure it’s in my stack of “really important books I should read some day but haven’t yet,” and this morning’s reminder came not from the book itself, but from here.

I’ll assume you’re as unfamiliar as I with the book itself, so here’s the insight I seem to have reached independently of Niehbur:

“Our moral perils are not those of conscious malice or the explicit lust for power.”

We are neither as good nor as wise as we think we are. We stand a better chance of doing what we ought to do and thus of surmounting the ironic elements of our experience if, chastened, we recognize this fragmentary—this broken—quality of both our wisdom and our virtue. Always strive for the good, yes, but in doing so never fail to be aware of our constant inclination to think ourselves both better and more perceptive than we really are. Inevitably, the shadow of our selfishness falls across all our perspectives, and so to be human is to be self-deceived. Especially avoid, as individuals and as nations, arrogance in the form of self-righteousness—as if anyone with any intelligence and moral fiber at all could see that, of course, I am right ….

Having established my congruence with Niehbur, I shall henceforth expect your implicit trust in my every word.


Essentially, [Project Veritas operative Jaime] Phillips baited The Post and The Post declined to play. Or, rather, the paper did what it’s supposed to do and checked out the story. This isn’t cause for trumpets and heraldry, mind you. It’s what journalists do. As opposed to what pseudo-journalists — also known as typists — claim they do. With a little footwork, Post reporters were able to trace Phillips to Project Veritas and demonstrated that her story was a fraud.

It was — you may now cue the horn section — FAKE NEWS.

Thanks to O’Keefe, The Post also showed a skeptical public just how different real journalism is from the effluvia produced by what would be more aptly named Pretext Veritas …

The lie was outed by the truth, while O’Keefe’s own obvious agenda was revealed. Hating the media these days is good business and good politics among a certain constituency. If anyone should feel betrayed by O’Keefe, however, it is all those people who have been duped into believing that the mainstream media is the bad guys. Let’s be very clear. The bad guys are the ones who lie.

(Kathleen Parker) I intend henceforth to adopt “Pretext Veritas” for O’Keefe’s disreputable operation. In a fundraising appeal, he begs funding to “FULLY follow through on our promise to expose the Establishment Media in 2017 and 2018.” Isn’t that putting the cart (the conclusion) before the horse (the facts)? Isn’t that the essence of bias and “fake news”?


The greatest absurdity of our time is You Know Whom, which goes without saying but I will anyway. What his election showed is that a considerable number of people, in order to demonstrate their frustration with the world as it is, are willing to drive their car, with their children in the back seat, over a cliff, smash the radiator, bust an axle and walk away feeling good about themselves. No other president in modern times has been held in contempt by a preponderance of people from the moment he said, “So help me, God.” The playboy blather, the smirk of privilege, the stunning contempt for factual truth — how can the country come together when the president has nothing in common with 98 percent of the rest of us?

(Garrison Keillor, in a column concluding that calling for Al Franken’s resignation is absurd, which column appeared just hours before Keillor got sacked and made an un-person by Minnesota Public Radio.)

I’m trying not to to obsess over The Donald, which only encourages him, but it’s also important not to let him, or (God forbid) others like him, become “normal.”

I also have gotten a glimmer lately of what may motivate a crucial bloc of Trump voters, the largely-male alt-right. I’m still not able to articulate it, and it’s going either to fade or come into eventual focus.


Say a state legalizes prostitution but concludes that prostitutes who promote their services to the public are “public accommodations” much as some courts have found wedding photographers to be public accommodations — could a prostitute be penalized for discriminating among prospective clients based on the clients’ sex, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, religion, race, and so on? …

(Eugene Volokh)


[T]he Court has held that counteracting offensive, hurtful, or demeaning messages is never a compelling (or even a legitimate) goal for governmental interference with free speech or expression.

Yet the only net benefit of coercing [Jack] Phillips [of Masterpiece Cakes] is to suppress what many call dignitary harm: the distress of being confronted with ideas deemed offensive, hurtful, or demeaning. After all, there are no material harms at stake; and under Supreme Court precedent, it won’t suffice for Colorado to cite “antidiscrimination” as a generic justification here.

As the Supreme Court has observed, it is the “proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence … that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate.’” So courts have held that states have no legitimate interest in fighting the distress caused by those ideas. They even lack the authority to fight ideas the majority finds demeaning or biased toward minority groups. They lack that authority even in the context of public accommodations laws, and even when those laws are designed to protect sexual minorities in particular. In one case, in fact, members of the Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funeral of a fallen soldier, with signs bearing anti-gay slurs and saying God sent the 9/11 attacks to punish America on account of gay people. The emotional harm to the bereaved father of that soldier was so great that a jury awarded him $10 million. But the Court—by a vote of eight to one, including every “liberal” justice—overturned that verdict on the ground that it violates the First Amendment to punish offensive ideas, however painful and deplorable.

(Sherif Girgis, The Christian Baker’s Unanswered Legal Argument: Why the Strongest Objections Fail)

* * * * *

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

There is no epistemological Switzerland. (Via Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 134)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.