Thursday, 1/12/23

Culture

Beware, lest the fate of Jordan Peterson befall thee

Now, no one who has followed [Jordan] Peterson—presumably including the higher-ups at the College of Psychologists of Ontario—seriously believes he would agree to such a request. He has confirmed as much on Twitter. (This is a guy who burst onto the scene in 2016 after refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns.) And Peterson is famous enough at this point to be inoculated against the financial consequences of refusing to submit, which the college must know.

The college’s statement, then, is not a message to Peterson, but a message to other would-be dissenters: Comply with our politics, or risk losing your livelihood.

[T]here is something about the [Jordan] Peterson story that is more chilling. It was not enough for the College to declare his comments offensive. It had to go one step further and imply that there was something about him that was unwell. By referring Peterson to a therapist for daring to speak his mind, the College of Psychologists of Ontario has pathologized dissent. It has made political disagreement into an illness.

Neeraja Deshpande, Will Jordan Peterson Lose His License for Wrongthink?

Moot Now

Stanford University has, mercifully, retreated from some seriously deranged and intellectually incoherent rules:

To mention but a single category of forbidden words, Stanford’s thirteen-page index prohibits terms that define people by just one of their characteristics.  “Prisoner,” for example, defines people by the characteristic of being, or having been, in prison.  Instead, Stanford says, one should say “person who is/was incarcerated.”  My first, uncharitable thought was that Stanford’s DEI experts hadn’t gone nearly far enough, for as you will see if you think deeply about it, the expression “person who is/was incarcerated” still identifies people according to just one of their characteristics, the characteristic of being incarcerated.

Another of the banned words on Stanford’s list is “prostitute.”  Anyone can see why.  Who wants to be called a prostitute?  The Stanford DEI administrators suggest substituting the phrase “person who engages in sex work,” which is considerate of them.  After thinking it over, however, I thought “Oho!  Does not this phrase too define people according to just one of their characteristics, the characteristic of engaging in sex work?”  Perhaps one might say “person who may, sometimes, perform sexual acts for money, as anyone might from time to time.”  But who is to say what counts as a sexual act these days?  So that’s out.  This is a tough one.  For now, the best substitute for “prostitute” I’ve been able to come up with is “political consultant.”

J Budziszewski, Sympathy for Stanford

An effective heuristic

One of my most vital convictions is summed up in this post: “Wondering how to decide what to read? Here’s a simple but effective heuristic to cut down the choices significantly. Ask yourself one question: Does this writer make bank when we hate one another? And if the answer is yes, don’t read that writer.” Americans have these wildly distorted views of people whom they perceive to be their political enemies because so many journalists and talking heads enrich themselves through stoking hatred. Those people should be utterly shunned.

I’m confident this originated with Alan Jacobs, though I don’t have a URL.

This admonition hasn’t been far from my mind since I first saw it. But I would refine it: “Does this writer, in this blog or publication, make bank when we hate one another?” I have to have that refinement or else Rod Dreher’s Chicken Little routine at The American Conservative would disqualify him even though his Substack, Rod Dreher’s Diary, is just fine — so intense that I want to avert my eyes sometimes, but not making bank on hate.

For Rod’s sake, I wish he’d find a way to dump his Chicken Little gig.

Populists, too, can march

Ron DeSantis has appointed a bunch of conservatives, even a rabble-rouser or two, to the Board of New College of Florida, the most liberal (in the political sense — i.e., “progressive”) of Florida’s state schools.

Michelle Goldberg refers to it as Christopher Rufo’s “long march through the institutions,” which strikes me as just about perfect, if you know the allusion.

The end of woke capital?

Is the politically active CEO poised to become a thing of the past? “Businesses waded into these once-taboo topics to begin with because they claimed they aligned with their corporate values, and—let’s be real—because they viewed it as good PR,” Beth Kowitt writes for Bloomberg. “[But] the era of widespread corporate outspokenness is ending. Part of the calculus for corporations is that they may be realizing they overestimated the goodwill their public stances generate. Research from Vanessa Burbano, a professor at Columbia Business School, has found that there is a ‘significant demotivating effect’ if an employer takes a stance an employee disagrees with, but no statistically motivating effect if the employee agrees. ‘The blowback you get is greater than the benefit,’ she told me. The reason, she says, is likely what’s called a ‘false consensus effect.’ People tend to assume that others share their values and are surprised and react more strongly when they find out that’s not the case.”

The Morning Dispatch.

I don’t know about the wider trends, but woke capital is still trying to tell Indiana’s legislature what to do. Maybe they’re doing that because they succeeded with Indiana RFRA in 2005 and there’s no reason to think they can’t succeed again, so highly do we value our image as business magnet.

Social Climbing

It’s not the sort of thing I’d usually read, but for some reason, this caught my eye: Xochitl Gonzalez, The New Case for Social Climbing. Recommended.

Ethnomasochism

The passing of the Queen became primarily an occasion for a recitation of the crimes of British imperialism, both real and imagined. This catechism, and those that follow the same template in other Western countries, ironically serves to provide a kind of cohesion — not of the nation, but of a post-national ruling class that regards itself as the civilized minority and defines itself against a backward majority.

Matthew B. Crawford, Love of one’s own. I just discovered that Crawford has a Substack. I’m in!

Uniqueness

It must surely be granted that whatever is unique defies definition. Definition then must depend on some kind of analogical relationship of a thing with other things, and this can mean only that definition is ultimately circular.

Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences

Politics

The January 6 Committee Report

The committee’s report documents starkly how Trump literally erased and stopped history from being recorded as he waited to see how the storming of the Capitol would unfold: He stopped the White House photographer from taking pictures between 1:30 and 4 pm, there are no official records—as there should be—of his telephone calls that afternoon despite his assistant saying “he was placing lots of calls,” and, “the President’s official Daily Diary contains no information for this afternoon between the hours of 1:19 pm and 4:03 pm, at the height of the worst attack on the seat of the United States Congress in over two centuries.” These are huge historical holes, as anyone who studies the presidency knows—the daily diary usually tracks every single interaction a president has to the minute, including who stepped into or out of what room when, when telephone calls were attempted, whether they were successful, etc. And we have these records from the darkest and most fraught moments of American history—the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Saturday Night Massacre, 9/11, and so on. Trump’s foresight to stop these records on January 6 is as solid evidence of a mens rea, a guilty mind, as you could imagine.

Garrett M. Graff, January 6 Report: 11 Details You May Have Missed | WIRED (emphasis added)

I got an email from a Florida Man today, saying the January 6 report is all LIES! LIES! LIES! and PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, stupid people, send money to this grift I call a defense fund!

Those who haven’t figured out that this is a grift, funnelling money straight into his pocket, deserve to lose whatever they send.

Mitch McConnell ain’t afraid of Florida Man

In another sign that Republicans are really ready to ditch Trump, Mitch McConnell was brutal on the former president in a recent interview with NBC News: “Here’s what I think has changed: I think the former president’s political clout has diminished.” And then on losing the midterms: “We lost support that we needed among independents and moderate Republicans, primarily related to the view they had of us as a party—largely made by the former president—that we were sort of nasty and tended toward chaos.” Nasty and trending toward chaos is a pretty perfect way to describe the former president and his would-be political successors.

Nellie Bowles

Conservative versus Amateurish and Crazy

If the House was full of Dan Crenshaws, Mike Gallaghers, Steve Scalises, and Pete Meijers and purged of all the Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Matt Gaetzes, it would be just as ideologically conservative if not more so, but it would be a lot less amateurish and crazy. And that would be good for the GOP, conservatism, and the country—because voters don’t just vote for individual candidates, they vote for which party they want to see in power. So of course, all things being equal, the “establishment” should err on the side of supporting candidates who make the party more attractive to voters generally.

Jonah Goldberg

Call us unreliable

[A]llies and rival powers alike know that a Republican winning the White House could portend foreign policy reversals on multiple fronts around the globe. That makes us a far less reliable partner and source of stability than we have been in the past.

Damon Linker, Foreign Policy and the Right

Social media carrying water for the Administration

Email exchanges between Rob Flaherty, the White House’s director of digital media, and social-media executives prove the companies put Covid censorship policies in place in response to relentless, coercive pressure from the White House—not voluntarily. The emails emerged Jan. 6 in the discovery phase of Missouri v. Biden, a free-speech case brought by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana and four private plaintiffs represented by the New Civil Liberties Alliance.

These emails establish a clear pattern: Mr. Flaherty, representing the White House, expresses anger at the companies’ failure to censor Covid-related content to his satisfaction. The companies change their policies to address his demands. As a result, thousands of Americans were silenced for questioning government-approved Covid narratives. Two of the Missouri plaintiffs, Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff, are epidemiologists whom multiple social-media platforms censored at the government’s behest for expressing views that were scientifically well-founded but diverged from the government line—for instance, that children and adults with natural immunity from prior infection don’t need Covid vaccines.

Emails made public through earlier lawsuits, Freedom of Information Act requests and Elon Musk’s release of the Twitter Files had already exposed a sprawling censorship regime involving the White House as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies. The government directed tech companies to remove certain types of material and even to censor specific posts and accounts. Again, these included truthful messages casting doubt on the efficacy of masks and challenging Covid-19 vaccine mandates.

Jenin Younes and Aaron Kheriaty, The White House Covid Censorship Machine

This story is significant because private actors can violate first amendment free speech rights if they are acting under government coercion to do so — as they apparently have been.

I have taken all recommended Covid vaccines and available boosters. I know that “do your own research” can easily lead one to quacks and deliberate liars, and a realistic assessment of my science literacy suggests I’d be susceptible to that. I don’t object to the government communicating its official position to citizens. But I draw the line at government censoring dissent — directly or by turning social media into its agents.


Tradition is a bulwark against the power of commerce and the dissolving acid of money, and by removing these, all revolutions in the modern period have ended up accelerating the commercial and technological shift towards the Machine.

Paul Kingsnorth

You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s