Is There a Way to Acknowledge America’s Progress? (applies more broadly)

Good reminder by Andrew Sullivan that many things have changed for the better. And of course, recognizing progress doesn’t mean doing more may not be needed, but having a historical perspective helps focus debate and discussion on what should be the more pressing issues:

…Why this sudden ratcheting up of rhetoric? On the right, it’s fueled by the kind of absurd hyperbole that Trump uses all the time. On the left, it’s Trump himself. His extremism, misogyny, transphobia, and racism have all provoked a sharp turn to the left among Democrats. But, as you can see from the workforce numbers for women, there’s little he can actually do to prevent the future from being female. He could tip the Court, which could, in turn, repeal Roe, but that would be a highly unpopular ruling and likely provoke a backlash that could lead to more moderate federal legislation in its place. Marriage equality is settled law, according to the chief justice of the Supreme Court. Gay visibility is ubiquitous. Black unemployment is at record lows; black women are seeing real improvement in their careers and earnings; crime in urban neighborhoods is a fraction of what it was in the 1980s and 1990s. Yes, we have a bigot in the Oval Office — but his ability to influence these broader cultural tides is quite limited.

Some of the rhetorical excess is also about money. Interest groups for various subpopulations have a financial interest in emphasizing oppression in order to keep donations flowing.

But a recent psychological study suggests a simpler explanation. Its core idea is what you might call “oppression creep” or, more neutrally, “prevalence-induced concept change.” The more progress we observe, the greater the remaining injustices appear. We seem incapable of keeping a concept stable over time when the prevalence of that concept declines. In a fascinating experiment, participants were provided with a chart containing a thousand dots that ranged along a spectrum from very blue to very purple and were asked to go through and identify all the blue dots. The study group was then broken in two. One subgroup was shown a new chart with the same balance of purple and blue dots as the first one and asked to repeat the task. Not surprisingly, they generally found the same number of blue dots as they did on the first chart. A second subgroup was shown a new chart with fewer blue dots and more purple dots. In this group, participants started marking dots as blue that they had marked as purple on the first chart. “In other words, when the prevalence of blue dots decreased, participants’ concept of blue expanded to include dots that it had previously excluded.”

We see relatively, not absolutely. We change our standards all the time, depending on context. As part of the study, the psychologists ran another experiment showing participants a range of threatening and nonthreatening faces and asking them to identify which was which. Next, participants were split into two groups and asked to repeat the exercise. The first subgroup was shown the same ratio of threatening and nonthreatening faces as in the initial round; subgroup two was shown many fewer threatening faces. Sure enough, the second group adjusted by seeing faces they once thought of as nonthreatening as threatening. The conclusion:

When blue dots became rare, purple dots began to look blue; when threatening faces became rare, neutral faces began to appear threatening … This happened even when the change in the prevalence of instances was abrupt, even when participants were explicitly told that the prevalence of instances would change, and even when participants were instructed and paid to ignore these changes.

We seem to be wired to assume a given threat remains just as menacing even when its actual prevalence has declined:

Our studies suggest that even well-meaning agents may sometimes fail to recognize the success of their own efforts, simply because they view each new instance in the decreasingly problematic context that they themselves have brought about. Although modern societies have made extraordinary progress in solving a wide range of social problems, from poverty and illiteracy to violence and infant mortality, the majority of people believe that the world is getting worse. The fact that concepts grow larger when their instances grow smaller may be one source of that pessimism.

This study may help explain why, in the midst of tremendous gains for gays, women, and racial minorities, we still insist more than ever that we live in a patriarchal, misogynist, white supremacist, homophobic era. We constantly adjust our view of our fast-changing world to ensure we don’t believe it has changed at all! Maybe this is simply another way of describing each generation’s shifting of the goalposts. Or maybe it’s because we’ve made so much progress that the injustice that remains appears more intolerable, rather than less. Or maybe, as these psychologists suggest, “holding concepts constant may be an evolutionarily recent requirement that the brain’s standard computational mechanisms are ill equipped to meet.”

But whatever the cause, the result is that we steadfastly refuse to accept the fact of progress, in a cycle of eternal frustration at what injustices will always remain. We never seem to be able to say: “Okay, we’re done now, we’ve got this, politics has done all it reasonably could, now let’s move on with our lives.” We can only ever say: “It’s worse than ever!” And feel it in our bones.


Groin-waxing human rights complainant has history of anti-immigrant comments

How does the intersectionality approach issues like this?

New anti-immigrant comments from self-identified transwoman Jessica Yaniv — who has complaints against female immigrant estheticians before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal for refusing to wax her male genitalia — have surfaced, shedding more light on the complainant whose lawsuits have made international headlines.

“lol i cant stand asians (sic),” wrote Yaniv in one Facebook conversation, according to a report this weekfrom Montreal-based news outlet The Post Millennial.

In the conversation, Yaniv described to a former online friend how she got an Asian e-commerce seller penalized on eBay.

In another conversation there’s both audio and a written message where Yaniv refers to Sikhs disparagingly.

“Can’t stand them turban f–kers,” she wrote in one message.

“Like, I was just having a joke with one of my friends on Snapchat. I was like ‘Okay, this guy is a turban f–ker.’ And the media decided to take this and make it into a whole big spiel over a three-second audio clip,” explained Yaniv to the Sun in a phone interview.

“And my defence for that is that I was pissed and the the guy literally rejected me for a massage after I mentioned I’m transgender.”

In another social media conversation — which the defence presented at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal as evidence of Yaniv having a history of bigotry towards different minority groups — she sounds off on immigrants in B.C. generally.

“We have a lot of immigrants here who gawk and judge and aren’t exactly the cleanest people. They’re also verbally and physically abusive… They lie about s–t, they’ll do anything to support their miserable kind and make things miserable for everyone else.”

Critics such as Calgary Herald columnist Licia Corbella argued that getting one’s groin waxed is not a human right.

“Inherently, the right of a woman not to wax a man or a woman’s genitals has to be as fundamental a human right as one can find,” said employment lawyer Howard Levitt.

“I think that now that the public is looking at [Yaniv’s human rights claims,] and realize how outrageous it is, the B.C. Tribunal, fearful for keeping their jobs — will find a way to dismiss these cases. …The public glare is a wonderful thing sometimes.”

Yaniv told the Sun she was only discriminated against and rejected from getting a Brazilian wax once she disclosed she is transgender to 16 salons.

“These estheticians do male waxing,” claims Yaniv. “All of these waxing treatments were under the name Jonathan. It was only after I mentioned that I’m transgender that they ended up [declining] me service.

Calgary constitutional lawyer Jay Cameron is providing pro bono legal representation to five of the 13 respondents, some minority women, that Yaniv is suing and disputes Yaniv’s claims.

“The idea that the state would compel or punish a woman who is not trained and who is not comfortable to wax male genitals and fine her for refusing on the basis of gender identity or expression is just beyond the pale,” said Cameron

The Post Millennial also reported on sexually inappropriate conversations Yaniv allegedly had with then-underage girls.

“From speaking to five victims, three of which I profiled for The Post Millennial, I learned Yaniv demonstrated patterns of clearly disturbing sexual and emotionally abusive behaviour, specifically towards young girls,” said journalist Anna Slatz.

“Of the three girls I profiled, two had been subjected to vastly inappropriate and unwanted attentions from Yaniv when they were just 14 years old. The attentions surrounded sex, menstruation, and access to various women’s washrooms where Yaniv seemed to believe nude young girls would be present.”

Yaniv told the Sun “It’s a bunch of crap,”

“Yaniv’s assertion that the victims I profiled provided fake or photoshopped is demonstrably untrue,” says Slatz.

Levitt says the Human Rights Tribunals in Canada tend to “go on messianic, ideological missions… They attract as their judges or as their supposedly neutral chairs radical zealots in lots of cases. And they interpret the law to enhance their own power and jurisdiction, and pursue the standards of political correctness that are anathema to most Canadians.”

Source: Groin-waxing human rights complainant has history of anti-immigrant comments

Andrew Sullivan provides his perspective on what considerations should apply in such cases and the need for more nuance:

If Jessica Yaniv did not exist, the religious right and Fox News would have to invent her. Yaniv is a trans woman in Canada who has been suing multiple businesses for abuse of her human rights under British Columbia’s laws. She booked various appointments online with local female-only beauticians to get a Brazilian wax, and was refused when she showed up. The reason is that Yaniv has male genitalia.

Many of the beauticians worked out of their own homes with children present, most were immigrant women, one with Sikh religious strictures against touching male genitals other than her husband’s. The notion that women can have male genitalia hadn’t dawned on these obvious bigots when they decided to open up beauty shops, and they felt humiliated and exploited by the request. The cases have not yet been decided, but the women are already feeling the repercussions on both a personal and professional level. A lawyer representing some of the women says that one has been unable to sleep for months, racked with depression and anxiety: she eventually closed down her business; others think they might follow suit soon. And even if the cases don’t succeed, and their businesses stay open, the stigma of being associated with bigotry will linger.

In Ricky Gervais’s words: “How did we get to the point where women are having to fight for the right to choose whether they wax some big old hairy cock and balls or not? It is not a human right to have your meat and 2 veg polished.” But, according to British Columbia’s definition of human rights, it is, if you are a woman. Female-only salons have to accept every woman, including those with balls. And according to the proposed Equality Act, the gay lobby’s chief legislative goal, backed by every Democratic candidate, it would be a human right in America as well. Yaniv has described the beauticians’ refusals as “hate crimes.” And technically, they might be.

The case, of course, is a very, very rare one in its grotesquerie. Yaniv is an obviously somewhat disturbed troll. She has allegedly made creepy overturesto underage girls online, has been cited by a 14-year-old for alleged “child exploitation,” and she is now applying for a permit to host a topless swimming-pool party for “LGBTQ2S” individuals, 12 and above, without their parents being present. She has long seemed obsessed with tampons, says she has heavy periods, has publicly inveighed against immigrants, and has exulted when she has forced businesses to close down. She’s an extreme outlier in many ways — and terrible PR for other trans people who are not seeking this kind of pointless, offensive conflict. No serious trans groups support her. They rightly see her as a threat to the trans movement, confirming the worst allegations against trans people made by the hard right. Largely ignored by the mainstream American press, she has even inspired a hashtag worthy of Eric Cartman: #waxmyballs.

The trouble is, the way this issue is currently being understood, it’s hard to think of how you prevent trolls or fanatics like Yaniv from gaming the system. If your gender is determined entirely by self-definition, needs no further support or evidence, and always trumps genital biology, it’s a legal regime ripe for abuse. The current insistence that a trans woman is a woman in every single respect also ends in the absurdity of talking about a woman’s scrotum. It should be possible to defend trans women and trans men from discrimination without being forced into a surreal world, where a penis is a female organ and a vagina is a male one.

The truth is that trans people have the body of one sex and the mind and psyche of another. The mind is a much more central part of human identity than the genitals, and that is what ultimately should determine gender. But respecting this — and those who form this part of humanity — need not deny the physiological reality that trans women are not women in every single way. Trans women should be treated as women, but not conflated entirely with them. If they were simply women, in the brain and in the body, they would not be trans, would they?

I’m not sure how you quite pull this off, but subsuming sex into gender, making gender entirely a subjective choice for anyone, and placing this understanding of human sex into core civil-rights law is what makes Yaniv’s case possible. More nuanced laws that define gender identity as something more than mere subjectivity, protects trans people from discrimination, but allows for exceptions in nonmedical physically intimate interactions, seems a pretty good compromise. Imposing a very new ideology by force of law, rather than making pragmatic adjustments that will actually help the vast majority of trans people, is rife with unintended consequences.

If Yaniv’s case helps us recognize that, it may yet turn out for the good.

Andrew Sullivan: The Abyss of Hate Versus Hate

While it doesn’t excuse the wearing of MAGA hats – after two years of President Trump, hard to deny that it has become a symbol of racism – does provide needed calling out of the Black Hebrew Israelites and the risks of tribalism:

One of the advantages of taking Saturdays off the web entirely is that I wasn’t aware of L’Affaire Covington until it was almost over. It’s one of those occasions I’m deeply glad I quit blogging 24/7 four years ago and disengaged from Twitter last month. I’m not going to dunk on the multitudes who badly misjudged a moment in time. We’re all fallible. But I did make time to watch the full 100 minutes of YouTube footage that covered the scene in front of the Lincoln Memorial long before, during, and after the smirk that was seen across the world.

What I saw was extraordinary bigotry, threats of violence, hideous misogyny, disgusting racism, foul homophobia, and anti-Catholicism — not by the demonized schoolboys, but by grown men with a bullhorn, a small group of self-styled Black Hebrew Israelites. They’re a fringe sect — but an extremely aggressive one — known for inflammatory bigotry in public. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated them a hate group: “strongly anti-white and anti-Semitic.” They scream abuse at gays, women, white people, Jews, interracial couples, in the crudest of language. In their public display of bigotry, they’re at the same level as the Westboro Baptist sect: shockingly obscene. They were the instigators of the entire affair.

And yet the elite media seemed eager to downplay their role, referring to them only in passing, noting briefly that they were known to be anti-Semitic and anti-gay. After several days, the New York Times ran a news analysis on the group by John Eligon that reads like a press release from the sect: “They shout, use blunt and sometimes offensive language, and gamely engage in arguments aimed at drawing listeners near.” He notes that “they group people based on what they call nations, believing that there are 12 tribes among God’s chosen people. White people are not among those tribes, they believe, and will therefore be servants when Christ returns to Earth.” Nothing to see here, folks. Just a bunch of people preaching the enslavement of another race in public on speakers in the most inflammatory language imaginable.

Eligon actually writes: “Whatever tensions are sparked by Hebrew Israelite teaching, some adherents chalk that up to people being unwilling to accept uncomfortable doctrine.” The Washington Post ran a Style section headlineabout “the calculated art of making people uncomfortable.” In a news storyentirely about the Black Israelites, the Washington Post did not quote a single thing they had said on the tape, gave a respectful account of their theology, and only mentioned their status as a “hate group” in the 24th paragraph, and put the term in scare quotes. Vox managed to write an explainer that also did not include a single example of any of the actual insults hurled at the Covington kids. Countless near-treatises were written parsing the layers of bigotry inside a silent schoolboy’s smirk.

Here’s what I saw on the full tape: a small group of aggressive, hateful men using a bullhorn to broadcast the crudest of racial slurs, backed up by recitations of Bible verses. I saw a young Native American woman make the mistake of engaging them. When she stood her ground, she was suddenly interrupted: “You’re out of order. Where’s your husband? Where’s your husband? Let me speak to him.” On the tape, you can hear the commentary from another member of the Black Israelites: “You see this? This is the problem, Israel. It’s always our women coming up with their loud mouth, thinking they can run and bogart things, thinking they can come and distract things with their loud-ass mouth, because they’re not used to dealing with real men. You think we’re supposed to bow down to your damn emotions when you come around here and run your mouth and distract what we’re doing instead of coming here with order … She’s coming around here being wicked.”

Wait, there’s more. Hollering through a bullhorn at a group of Native Americans, the speaker boomed: “You ain’t no child of God. You are the Indian. You are a blue-eyed demon. That’s the last Mohican.” Then: “You’re still worshipping totem poles. You out of your mind! You have to repent. You worship the buffalo. You worship the eagle. You worship the phoenix. These are the idols you’ve been worshipping. A damn buffalo ain’t gonna save you. You worship the creations and not the creator … That’s why you’re drunkards in the casinos and the damn plantation.” Another: “Dumb-ass niggers. Bunch of demons. You’re a bunch of Uncle Tomahawks.” They snarled the word “savages” at Native Americans. The yelling was deafening, aggressive, vile, and threatening. But an inscrutable smile by a white teen was enough for some elite liberals to urge punching a schoolboy in the face.

Here is how the Black Israelites verbally assaulted the schoolboys: “Bring your cracker ass up here. Dirty ass crackers, your day coming. We can give a hell about your police. No one’s playing with these dusty-ass crackers.” Another: “Don’t get too close or your ass gonna get punished … You crackers are some slithery ass bastards. You better keep your distance.” And this, surveying the scene: “I see you, a bunch of incest babies … Babies made out of incest. If you’re the great damn nation, get rid of the lice on your back. … You’re a bunch of hyenas. You outnumber us but you keep your distance. You couldn’t touch us if you wanted to. You worship blasphemy.”

Then they took it up a notch: “Look at these dirty-ass crackers. You’re a bunch of future school-shooters. You crackers are crazy. You crackers have got some damn nerve …” And again: “When you guys gonna shoot up another school? You all gonna shoot up a school.” Yes, the man was accusing a bunch of schoolboys from Kentucky of wanting to murder their classmates — solely because they’re white.

Once the Israelites figured out the kids were Catholic, they offered this about what appeared to be a picture of the Pope: “This is a faggot child-molester.” And this about Donald Trump: “He’s a product of sodomy and he’s proud. Your president is a homosexual. … It says on the back of the dollar bill that ‘In God We Trust,’ and you give faggots rights.” At that homophobic outburst, the kids from the Catholic school spontaneously booed.

The boys — stuck waiting for a bus — decided to respond to this assault by performing school chants. Most look a little bewildered, as one might imagine. Some even tried to engage. Here are the spoken words I heard, in response to the abuse: “That’s racist, bro.” “That’s rude.” “Why are you being mean? Why do you call us Klansmen?” “We don’t judge you.” One of them offered to shake hands, and was rebuffed. Another offered some water from a plastic bottle. The response? “You got some Trump water? What does it taste like? Incest?”

Yes, the boys did chant some school riffs; I’m sure some of those joining in the Native American drumming and chanting were doing it partly in mockery, but others may have just been rolling with it. Yes, they should not have been wearing MAGA hats to a pro-life march. They aren’t angels; they’re teenage boys. But they were also subjected for quite a while to a racist, anti-Catholic, homophobic tirade on a loudspeaker, which would be more than most of us urbanites could bear — and they’re adolescents literally off the bus from Kentucky. I heard no slurs back. They stayed there because they were waiting for a bus, not to intimidate anyone.

To put it bluntly: They were 16-year-olds subjected to verbal racist assault by grown men; and then the kids were accused of being bigots. It just beggars belief that the same liberals who fret about “micro-aggressions” for 20-somethings were able to see 16-year-olds absorbing the worst racist garbage from religious bigots … and then express the desire to punch the kids in the face.

How did this grotesque inversion of the truth become the central narrative for what seemed to be the entire class of elite journalists on Twitter? That’s the somewhat terrifying question. Ruth Graham on Slate saw a 16-year-old she’d seen on a tape for a couple of minutes and immediately knew that he was indistinguishable from the “white young men crowding around a single black man at a lunch counter sit-in in Virginia in the 1960s” or other white “high school boys flashing Nazi salutes.” Even after the full context was clear, Graham refused to apologize to the kid, or retract her condemnation: The context didn’t “change the larger story” which, she explained, was bigotry toward Native Americans. She cited Trump’s use of the name “Pocahontas” for Elizabeth Warren as evidence. But using a bullhorn to call Native Americans “savages” and “drunkards at the casino” to their faces a few minutes earlier on the same tape was not worth a mention?

Graham was just one media voice among countless others, and I don’t mean to single her out. The reason I do is because her argument about the fuller context is now the norm in elite media, and it’s the underlying reason for the instant judgment. “Racism” now only means “prejudice plus power,” so what the adult Black Israelites yelled was nowhere near as bad as what a white teenager didn’t say. No empirical evidence could ever deny that underlying truth, as a piece at Deadspin insisted, after admitting that, well yes, there were “four black men who seem to belong to the Black Israelites … yelling insults.” No mention of the content of those insults, of course.

Across most of the national media, led by the New York Times and the Washington Post, the narrative had been set. “I’m willing to bet that fifty years from now, a defining image of this political era will be that smug white MAGA teen disrespecting a Native elder and veteran. It just captures so much,” Jessica Valenti tweeted. “And let’s please not forget that this group of teens … were there for the March for Life: There is an inextricable link between control over women’s bodies, white supremacy & young white male entitlement.” This is the orthodoxy of elite media, and it is increasingly the job of journalists to fit the facts to the narrative and to avoid any facts that undermine it.

There’s a reason why, in the crucial battle for the legitimacy of a free press, Trump is still on the offensive. Our mainstream press has been poisoned by tribalism. My own trust in it is eroding. I’m far from the only one.

The other night I was having a drink with a friend who said he believed that the Trump threat was essentially over, as the shutdown took its toll. He noted what might become an inflection point in the polling. He was heartened by the midterms. He might be right. But I think that misses the core point about this presidency. From my perspective, the Trump threat to liberal democracy is deepening, largely because its racial animus and rank tribalism are evoking a response that is increasingly imbued with racial animus and rank tribalism, in an ever-tightening spiral of mutual hostility.

“The red MAGA hat is the new white hood,” tweeted Alyssa Milano. In his debut Times column, Jamelle Bouie describes a border wall thus: “You can almost think of the wall as a modern-day Confederate monument, akin to those erected during a similar but far more virulent period of racist aggression in the first decades of the 20th century.” Charles Blow insists that “We have to stop thinking of the symbology of Trump’s presidency — the MAGA hats, the wall, etc — as merely physical objects. They have long since lost their original meaning and purpose. They are now emblems. They are now the new iconography of white supremacy … In much the same way that the confederate flag became a white supremacy signalling device, the MAGA hat now serves the same purpose. It is tangentially connected to Trump, but is transcends him also. It’s a way of cloaking racial hostility in the presentable form of politics.” A campaign slogan for a candidate who won the votes of 46 percent of the country in 2016 is to be seen as indistinguishable from the Confederate flag. This is not the language of politics. It is a language of civil war.

I can understand this impulse emotionally as a response to Trump’s hatefulness. But I fear it morally or politically. It’s a vortex that can lead to nothing but the raw imposition of power by one tribe over another. There can be no dialogue here, no debate, not even a State of the Union in which both tribes will participate. And none of us is immune.

What was so depressing to me about the Covington incident was how so many liberals felt comfortable taking a random teenager and, purely because of his race and gender, projected onto him all their resentments and hatred of “white men” in general. Here is Kara Swisher, a sane and kind person, reacting to the first video: “To all you aggrieved folks who thought this Gillette ad was too much bad-men-shaming, after we just saw it come to life with those awful kids and their fetid smirking harassing that elderly man on the Mall: Go fuck yourselves.” Judging — indeed demonizing — an individual on the basis of the racial or gender group he belongs to is the core element of racism, and yet it is now routine on the left as well as the right. To her great credit, Kara apologized profusely for the outburst. The point here is that tribal hatred can consume even the best of us.

And this is what will inevitably happen once you’ve redefined racism or sexism to mean prejudice plus power. It’s reasonable to note the social context of bigotry and see shades of gray, in which the powerful should indeed be more aware of how their racial or gender prejudice can hurt others, and the powerless given some slack. But if that leads you to ignore or downplay the nastiest adult bigotry imaginable and to focus on a teen boy’s silent face as the real manifestation of evil, you are well on your way to creating a new racism that mirrors aspects of the old.

This is the abyss of hate versus hate, tribe versus tribe. This is a moment when we can look at ourselves in the mirror of social media and see what we have become. Liberal democracy is being dismantled before our eyes — by all of us. This process is greater than one president. It is bottom-up as well as top-down. Tyranny, as Damon Linker reminded us this week, is not just political but psychological, and the tyrannical impulse, ratcheted up by social media, is in all of us. It infects the soul of the entire body politic. It destroys good people. It slowly strangles liberal democracy. This is the ongoing extinction level event.

The Worst Form of Affirmative Action: Sullivan on legacy admissions

Hard to argue:

The Worst Form of Affirmative Action

I’ve long believed that affirmative action is unjust, immoral, and racist. Open discrimination with racial bias is always poisonous and when it comes to access to critical institutions of higher learning, it’s a piece of social engineering that has been extended way past its expiration date.

I’m talking, of course, about legacy admissions: the open discrimination that favors the dumb rich over the bright poor and wealthy whites over the brown and black poor, as well as the permanently assaulted Asian-Americans. It’s how Jared Kushner — the dimmest of dim bulbs — walks around with a Harvard degree, thereby devaluing everyone else’s. Because his dad went there first and threw in what was effectively a bribe of an alleged $2.5 million.

ProPublica reports: “Overall, across six years, Harvard accepted 33.6 percent of legacy applicants, versus 5.9 percent of non-legacies, according to Duke economist Peter Arcidiacono, an expert witness for Students for Fair Admissions, the plaintiff challenging Harvard’s affirmative action policies.” This is therefore not a minor injustice; it’s a major scandal. And it has a manifest racial tilt: over a fifth of accepted white candidates are legacy admissions, recipients of a de facto white affirmative action program. In the 2019 class, 11.6 percent of incoming students are white legacy, more than the entire 11 percent who are African-American. It’s a boost that exceeds that given to Hispanics, Native Americans, and the poor. It’s giving the actual super-privileged more privilege, while narrowing the spaces available for truly deserving applicants.

Of course, I take the terribly naïve view that those most gifted intellectually should get into the best colleges, and that test scores are the most objective measure, with some credit for extracurriculars and personality. But if you hold this view, and oppose the use of race as an admissions tool, you simply have to concede that using money and family is just as noxious. I’d go further and make any abolition of racial affirmative action contingent upon the simultaneous abolition of legacy admissions. And I have no doubt that the places freed up could well increase minority representation in a way that requires no engineering, condescension, or left-racism.

If race-based affirmative action is to be abandoned — and it sure might with the new shape of the Supreme Court — it seems to me that conservatives, liberals, and even the left should unite, for once, against actual, tangible privilege and injustice. The Ivy League can take the financial hit, it seems to me. And a small effort to weaken our increasingly deep caste system in America in favor of meritocracy would be a huge benefit for us all. Plus: no more Kushners. What’s not to like?

via Did Trump Just Help Stop Brexit?

International stories that caught my attention

One of the advantages of having a break from blogging (not tweeting) is that one can gather the various news items and commentary together to have a more complete picture. Here is what caught my eye over the past few weeks.


An interesting looking back at Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech, how elements remain today (An Anti-Immigration Speech Divided Britain 50 Years Ago. It Still Echoes Today) and how these perhaps help explain the inexplicable treatment of long-term immigrants and others as exemplified by Windrush immigrants (post World War II immigrants from former British Caribbean colonies).

There was considerable and justifiable on the callousness of UK immigration and citizenship policies, including both news articles and commentary, highlighting some of what I would consider ethical lapses in developing and implementing policy (British Citizen One Day, Illegal Immigrant the Next, UK removed legal protection for Windrush immigrants in 2014, Immigration scandal expected to spread beyond Windrush group,  Woman told she is not British by the Home Office despite living in UK all her life), ‘Not British enough’: ex-high commissioner’s baby denied UK passport in 2011Damian Green ‘dismissed Windrush citizenship pleas’.

Nesrine Malek’s It’s not just Windrush. Theresa May has created hostility to all immigrants makes perhaps the harshest critique:

If you are angry about the treatment of the Windrush generation it is important to understand that this anger cannot be selective, if there are to be no more violations. There is no cross-party, cross-media support for a different type of immigration policy victim than the Windrush scandal has managed to muster. Not for those who are illegally detained, those on hunger strike in protest against poor conditions. Not for those whose illnesses were treated as lies and to which they later succumbed. Not for the sexually exploitedand not for the children separated from their parents. Not even for those British subjects separated from their families by unreasonably high income visa requirements.

During my own long battle with the Home Office to secure residency, I spent many hours in Croydon. I went on one occasion to withdraw my passport, which had languished unprocessed for months, to travel to see my sick mother. Driven wild with fear that I would not be able to see her if the unthinkable happened, I was ready to risk not being allowed back in the country. The waiting room was a holding pen of quiet individual tragedies, full of people whose personal and professional lives had been thrown into turmoil by loss of documents, technical glitches and glacial incompetence. The cruelty we all experienced was not a bug, it was a feature.

The scandal of the Windrush generation is the kind of thing that happens when this rot sets in so deep that the infrastructure of a civilised society begins to fall apart. The rise in the number of the persecuted is analogous to the doubling in deaths of homeless people. There is only so much austerity an economy can take before the human toll rises. And there is only so much ideological fixation on “sending people home” before we are deporting grandmothers who arrived in this country when they were children.

And make no mistake, it is ideological. The Conservative party has been consistent in its aggressive immigration policy since 2010, when David Cameron decided that a tough stance on immigration was a flagship party offering to its base supporters. No ifs, no buts, he said. Detention, deportation and NHS treatment refusal is the culmination of the party’s most lucid positions. It is not incompetence, it is not even malice. It is an enthusiastic strategy that over the past decade has become a cornerstone, a defining element of Conservative governments. An immigration policy, very much like austerity, unafraid to be brutal if the deserving, whether they are the “indigenous population” of the country or hardworking taxpayers, are to be protected from those who are after a “free ride”.

There has been no bureaucratic snafu. The only miscalculation was that everyone got a little bit cocky, and who can blame them. The error was that the dragnet picked up some people who fall into a popular sympathy sweet spot. The elderly ones who came here from the Commonwealth to rebuild Britain and who even the Daily Mail can look kindly upon. They appeal to a patrician nostalgia and have a humanising narrative that others who come to this country in different circumstances do not enjoy. An apology and exceptions made for Windrush cases alone is not enough. If we are to be content with only this, then the government’s furtive shimmy away from the crime scene will be successful, and the Home Office’s daily violations of human rights will continue. If we are to prevent the assaults against those we can relate to, we must also be angry for those we cannot.

The UK government was forced to reverse its policy given the public backlash.

And a few articles on UK perceptions of multiculturalism: Multiculturalism has failed, believe substantial minority of Britons‘Multiculturalism is defunct’: British Government signals U-turn on 70 years of social policy – Dr. Jenny Taylor.


Yet another article on the effect of Trump administration policies on the tech sector (Silicon Valley is fighting a brain-drain war with Trump that it may lose) but with one study suggesting the Valley is not as dependent on immigration as may appear (Shocker: San Francisco Tech Companies Not So Reliant On Immigrants):

A surprising survey by Envoy Global suggests that while San Francisco is not giving up on the H-1B, companies there need it less than they have professed to need it.  Call it an adjustment to the immigration policies of the new President. But despite a historical reliance on highly skilled foreign-born talent, most San Francisco employers say they do not consider sourcing foreign national workers as a top talent acquisition priority.

The San Francisco Insights on Immigration Report, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Envoy, aggregated the responses of 171 San Francisco-based HR professionals and hiring managers regarding global hiring practices. Key takeaways from the survey showed that local companies view hiring foreign talent is still very much a business norm, but today only 8% of San Francisco tech companies say they proactively seek out foreign employees compared with 24% of tech companies in other tech hubs who say they are looking abroad for talent. Some 54% of San Francisco tech companies said sourcing foreign national employees is not very important to their company’s talent acquisition strategy at the moment.

The de-emphasis on immigrant workers this year is the fact that the H-1B application process has become more cumbersome under Trump.  Trump has promised to make it harder for tech firms to hire foreign workers, though the companies all still insist they need them.

In response to changes in immigration regulations, 33% of San Francisco employers say they are hiring fewer foreign nationals compared to 26% of employers nationwide.

A further tightening of citizenship rules for children born abroad and out of wedlock to US parents USCIS tightens rules on US citizenship for children born outside America is being implemented.


A series of articles based upon the Australian race commissioner’s report on the appalling lack of diversity among Australian leadership (In a Proudly Diverse Australia, White People Still Run Almost Everything‘Dismal’ diversity among Australian business and civic leadersWhy we should look at targets to get more non-Europeans into top jobs: Tim Soutphommasane):

Based on the 2016 Census data on ancestry, we estimate about 58 per cent of Australians have an Anglo-Celtic background, 18 per cent have a European background, 21 per cent have a non-European background, and 3 per cent have an Indigenous background.

However, our examination of almost 2500 senior leaders in business, politics, government and higher education shows only very limited cultural diversity. Almost 95 per cent of senior leaders at the chief executive or “c-suite” levels have an Anglo-Celtic or European background. Of the 372 chief executives and equivalents we identified, 97 per cent have an Anglo-Celtic or European background.

Here’s a breakdown. Within the ASX 200 companies, there appears only to be eight chief executives who have a non-European background – enough to squeeze into a Tarago. Of the 30 members of the federal ministry, there is no one who has a non-European background, and one who has an Indigenous background. It is similarly bleak within the public service, where 99 per cent of the heads of federal and state government departments have an Anglo-Celtic or European background (that’s one of 103). Universities don’t fare much better: just one of the 39 vice-chancellors of Australian universities has a non-European background.

All up there are 11 of the 372 chief executives and equivalents who have a non-European or Indigenous background. A mere cricket team’s worth of diversity.

These are dismal statistics for a society that prides itself on its multiculturalism. They challenge our egalitarian self-image. And they challenge our future prosperity as a nation. If we aren’t making the most of our multicultural talents, we may be squandering opportunities.

I often hear from people that it will only be a matter of time before cultural diversity is better represented. We should be encouraged, for example, that there doesn’t appear to be any lack of European backgrounds among senior leaders. Just as it took time before we saw Australian chief executives from Italian or Greek backgrounds, we may have to wait a little longer before we see more from Asian, Middle-Eastern, or African backgrounds.

Time alone may not resolve the problem. Economists at the University of Sydney, in a recent study involving resumes, found those with an Anglo name are three times more likely to be invited for interview, compared to candidates with a Chinese name. (The study also found that those with Chinese names who had an Anglicised first name doubled their chances of receiving a job interview.)

If we are serious about shifting numbers, it may be necessary to consider targets for cultural diversity – if not quotas. Such measures don’t stand in opposition to a principle of merit. After all, meritocracy presumes a level playing field. Yet do we seriously believe that a perfectly level playing field exists, when there is such dramatic under-representation of cultural diversity within leadership positions?

Multiculturalism can be as superficial as food and festivals. But if we’re serious about our diversity, we must be prepared to hold up a mirror to ourselves – and ask if what we see looks right for an egalitarian and multicultural Australia.


Lastly, relevant and disturbing commentary on the recent Hungarian election and the country’s descent into autocracy (Hungary Is Winning Its War on Muslim Immigrants: Leonid BershidskyA Democracy Disappears: Andrew Sullivan), with Sullivan noting the parallels with the US under Trump:

The recipe is a familiar one by now. In a society where social mores, especially in the big cities, appear to be changing very fast, there is a classic reaction. More traditional voters in the heartland begin to feel left behind, and their long-held values spurned. At the same time, a wave of unlawful migrants, fleeing terror and deprivation, appear to threaten the demographic and cultural balance still further, and seem to be encouraged by international post-national entities such as the European Union. A leftist ruling party in disarray gives a right-wing demagogue an opening, and he seizes it. And so in 2010, Orbán was able to exploit a political crisis triggered by an imploding and scandal-ridden Socialist government, and, alongside coalition partners, win a supermajority for the right in parliament.

Once in power, that supermajority allowed Orbán to amend the constitution in 2011, reducing the number of seats in the parliament from 386 to 199, gerrymandering them brutally to shore up his party’s standing in future elections, barring gay marriage in perpetuity, and mandating that in election campaigns, state media would take precedence over independent sources. He also forced a wave of early retirements in the judiciary in order to pack the courts with loyalists.

As Mounk notes, Orbán also tapped into deep grievances rooted in Hungary’s loss of territory in the 20th century, by giving the vote to ethnic Hungarians in neighboring Romania and removing it from more culturally progressive expats. But it was in response to the migration crisis in 2015, that Orbán truly galvanized public opinion behind him. Hungary, as Paul Lendvai noted in The Atlantic, had been deluged with asylum claims: 174,000 in 2015 alone, the highest per capita in the EU. Orbán responded by spreading fears of an influx of terrorists and criminals, of a poisoning of Hungarian culture, and expressing visceral nationalist hostility to the diktats of the European Union. Added to all that, of course, was a generous salting of classic central European anti-Semitism. Voters especially in rural areas flocked to him.

He further shifted the public discourse by creating and advancing new media outlets that amplified his propaganda, while attacking, harassing, and undermining all the others. He erected a huge fence to keep Muslim immigrants out, and refused to accept any of the 50,000 refugees the EU wanted to settle in his country. His political allies began to get very rich, as crony capitalism spread. By last year, Orbán had turned George Soros into a version of 1984’s Emmanuel Goldstein — an “enemy of the state” — with billboards and endless speeches, demonizing the Jewish billionaire and philanthropist, and vowing to protect the nation from external, malignant forces.

It was a potent formula, especially when backed up by the rigging of the parliamentary seats. Last week, in a surge of voter turnout, Orban won almost 50 percent of the vote, but two-thirds of the seats, giving him another supermajority (this time without coalition partners) in parliament, with further chances to amend the constitution in his favor. His voters in the heartland swamped a majority for the opposition in Budapest. One of two remaining opposition newspapers, Magyar Nemzet, shut down on Wednesday after 80 years in print. Orbán had withdrawn all government advertising in it. Some wonder whether there will ever be a free election again.

If you find many of these themes familiar, you’ve been paying attention. In the middle of a reaction against massive social change and a wave of illegal immigration, a right-wing party decides to huff some populism. A charismatic figure emerges, defined by hostility to immigration, becomes an iconic figure, and even though he doesn’t win a majority of votes, comes to office. His party is further shored up by gerrymandering, giving it a structural advantage in gaining and keeping power, including a seven percentage-point head start in the House of Representatives. That party does what it can to further suppress the vote of its opponents, especially ethnic minorities, and focuses on packing the courts, even rupturing long-standing precedents to deny a president of the opposing party his right to fill a vacant Supreme Court seat.

Openly propagandist media companies emerge, fake news surges, while the president uses the powers of his office to attack, delegitimize, and discredit other media sources, even to the point of threatening a company like Amazon. A mighty wall is proposed against immigrants on the border, alongside fears of a mass “invasion” from the South. Social conservatives are embraced tightly. The census is altered to ensure one party’s advantage in future district-drawing. Courts are disparaged and the justice system derided as rigged by political opponents.

The difference, of course, is that Orbán is an experienced politician, and knows exactly what he’s doing. Trump is a fool, an incompetent, and incapable of forming any kind of strategy, or sticking to one. The forces arrayed against the populist right, moreover, are much stronger in the U.S. than in Hungary; our institutions more robust; our culture much more diverse. Our democracy is far, far older.

And yet almost every single trend in Hungary is apparent here as well. The party of the left has deep divisions, and no unifying leader, while the ruling party is a loyalist leader-cult. The president’s party is a machine that refuses to share power, and seeks total control of all branches of government. It is propelled by powerful currents of reaction, seems indifferent to constitutional norms, and dedicated to incendiary but extremely potent populist rhetoric. The president’s supporters now support a purge in the Department of Justice and the FBI, to protect the president from being investigated.

The president himself has repeatedly demonstrated contempt for liberal norms; and despite a chaotic first year and a half, is still supported by a solid and slightly growing 42 percent of the public. Meanwhile, the immigration issue continues to press down, the culture wars are intensifying again, and the broad reasons for Trump’s election in the first place remain in place: soaring social and economic inequality, cultural insecurity, intensifying globalization, and a racially fraught period when white Americans will, for the first time, not form a majority of citizens.

History is not over; and real, profound political choices are here again. My hope is that the descent into illiberalism across the West might shake up the rest of us in defending core liberal democratic principles, wherever they are threatened, bringing us to the ballot box in huge numbers this fall, and abandoning the complacency so many have lapsed into.

Geddes tries to explain former PM Harper’s congratulations to Orban (Why Stephen Harper congratulating Viktor Orbán matters: John Geddes):

Tone matters. If this were only a pro forma note, Harper is more than capable, as anyone who followed him in Canadian politics can attest, of draining any message of liveliness or affect. And, by his own stated standard, he would have had grounds for keeping any hint of enthusiasm out of this one. After all, Harper has said that his aim as IDU chair is partly “ensuring that we address the concerns of frustrated conservatives and that they do not drift to extreme options.”

If we’re talking extreme options, Orban looks like a prime example these days. Numerous credible critics charge that he has coopted Hungary’s courts and schools, skewed its electoral system to his advantage, all while voicing admiration for Turkey and China, and criticizing Western European tolerance for Muslim immigration. Still, political science professor Achim Hurrelmann, director of Carleton University’s Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, says Orban’s core message—beyond his destructive domestic tactics—is being heard by conservatives outside Hungary. “[Fidesz] has primarily been anti-migration, emphasizing the Christian roots of Europe, and being very much against diversity,” Hurrelmann told me in an interview. “In that position, they find common ground with some other mainstream conservative parties.”

I can’t guess if Harper’s calculation in issuing that tweet took into account an awareness that Orban, dangerous as he may be, isn’t irrelevant beyond Hungary. Whatever Harper’s reasoning, he has undoubtedly damaged his reputation among many who view Orban with justifiable distaste and alarm. I’m reminded again of the steep learning curve Harper had to climb after barely travelling outside Canada, and concentrating almost entirely on domestic issues, rather than foreign policy, before his 2006 election win. “Since coming to office,” he told Maclean’s in 2011, “the thing that’s probably struck me the most in terms of my previous expectations—I don’t even know what my expectations were—is not just how important foreign affairs/foreign relations is, but, in fact, that it’s become almost everything.”

It’s worth noting that Andrew Scheer seems to be on his own version of that learning curve now. In this recent interview with my colleague Paul Wells, the Conservative leader surprised me by going on at some length about his reasons for supporting Brexit. Scheer spoke about how staying in the EU impinged on British sovereignty and embroiled Britain in the Brussels bureaucracy. He scoffed at “this notion that somehow they would lose access to the European market.” He repeated the debunked canard that EU rules required a certain curvature on bananas.

To my ear, all this pro-Brexit blather was by far the least convincing part of Scheer’s performance in that interesting conversation. Conservatism’s most treacherous currents are global, especially in the age of Donald Trump. In Harper’s congratulatory message to Orban, and Scheer’s laudatory position on Brexit, the difficulty finding a solidly respectable place to stand in that international discourse becomes glaringly obvious. These issues might not seem central to Canadian voters in any federal election, but, as Harper reminded us, they soon are to whoever wins one.


Andrew Sullivan: On-line dating and the increase in interracial marriage:


Just when I had given up on the web, I stumble across some new data. Yep, it appears that dating apps are changing our society, by becoming the second-most common way straights meet partners, and by expanding the range of people we can meet. (For gay men, it’s almost the only way people meet for sex and relationships.) But here’s what’s intriguing: Correlated with that is a sustained, and hard-to-explain, rise in interracial marriage.

Or so say two researchers, Josue Ortega at the University of Essex in the U.K. and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna in Austria. Money quote: “It is intriguing that shortly after the introduction of the first dating websites in 1995, like, the percentage of new marriages created by interracial couples increased rapidly,” say the researchers. “The increase became steeper in the 2000s, when online dating became even more popular. Then, in 2014, the proportion of interracial marriages jumped again.” That was when Tinder took off.

No, there’s no causation proven, but the authors, running various computer models on the effects of wider online social networks, are stumped to come up with an alternative explanation. (Fewer white people as a proportion of the population can’t account for the sharpness of the rise.) Again: “The researchers start by simulating what happens when extra links are introduced into a social network. Their network consists of men and women from different races who are randomly distributed. In this model, everyone wants to marry a person of the opposite sex but can only marry someone with whom a connection exists. This leads to a society with a relatively low level of interracial marriage. But if the researchers add random links between people from different ethnic groups, the level of interracial marriage changes dramatically.” Even more encouraging, the marriages begun online seem to last longer than others.

I wonder if online dating doesn’t just expand your ability to meet more people of another race, by eliminating geography and the subtle grouping effect of race and class and education. Maybe it lowers some of the social inhibitions against interracial dating. Online, people don’t have to flirt with someone of another race while being observed by their peers, and more people have the courage of their own desires. It’s always seemed to me that racism is deeply ingrained in human nature, and always will be, simply because our primate in-group aversion to members of an out-group expresses itself in racism, unless you actively fight it. You can try every law or custom to mitigate this, but it will only go so far. But blur the races with miscegenation, and you add one more powerful solvent to the racism we all have somewhere in our lizard brains.

Source: Andrew Sullivan: Trump’s Mindless Nihilism

Can Our Democracy Survive Tribalism? Andrew Sullivan

Good long thoughtful read. Although written for the hyper-tribal US environment, lessons for all countries of the risks of identity bubbles. Conclusion:

Tribalism is not a static force. It feeds on itself. It appeals on a gut level and evokes emotions that are not easily controlled and usually spiral toward real conflict. And there is no sign that the deeper forces that have accelerated this — globalization, social atomization, secularization, media polarization, ever more multiculturalism — will weaken. The rhetorical extremes have already been pushed further than most of us thought possible only a couple of years ago, and the rival camps are even more hermetically sealed. In 2015, did any of us anticipate that neo-Nazis would be openly parading with torches on a college campus or that antifa activists would be proudly extolling violence as the only serious response to the Trump era?

As utopian as it sounds, I truly believe all of us have to at least try to change the culture from the ground up. There are two ideas that might be of help, it seems to me. The first is individuality. I don’t mean individualism. Nothing is more conducive to tribalism than a sea of disconnected, atomized individuals searching for some broader tribe to belong to. I mean valuing the unique human being — distinct from any group identity, quirky, full of character and contradictions, skeptical, rebellious, immune to being labeled or bludgeoned into a broader tribal grouping. This cultural antidote to tribalism, left and right, is still here in America and ready to be rediscovered. That we expanded the space for this to flourish is one of the greatest achievements of the West.

Perhaps I’m biased because I’m an individual by default. I’m gay but Catholic, conservative but independent, a Brit but American, religious but secular. What tribe would ever have me? I may be an extreme case, but we all are nonconformist to some degree. Nurturing your difference or dissent from your own group is difficult; appreciating the individuality of those in other tribes is even harder. It takes effort and imagination, openness to dissent, even an occasional embrace of blasphemy.

And, at some point, we also need mutual forgiveness. It doesn’t matter if you believe, as I do, that the right bears the bulk of the historical blame. No tribal conflict has ever been unwound without magnanimity. Yitzhak Rabin had it, but it was not enough. Nelson Mandela had it, and it was. In Colombia earlier this month, as a fragile peace agreement met public opposition, Pope Francis insisted that grudges be left behind: “All of us are necessary to create and form a society. This isn’t just done with the ‘pure-blooded’ ones, but rather with everyone. And here is where the greatness of the country lies, in that there is room for all and all are important.” If societies scarred by recent domestic terrorism can aim at this, why should it be so impossible for us?

But this requires, of course, first recognizing our own tribal thinking. So much of our debates are now an easy either/or rather than a complicated both/and. In our tribal certainties, we often distort what we actually believe in the quiet of our hearts, and fail to see what aspects of truth the other tribe may grasp.

Not all resistance to mass immigration or multiculturalism is mere racism or bigotry; and not every complaint about racism and sexism is baseless. Many older white Americans are not so much full of hate as full of fear. Equally, many minorities and women face genuine blocks to their advancement because of subtle and unsubtle bias, and it is not mere victim-mongering. We also don’t have to deny African-American agency in order to account for the historic patterns of injustice that still haunt an entire community. We need to recall that most immigrants are simply seeking a better life, but also that a country that cannot control its borders is not a country at all. We’re rightly concerned that religious faith can easily lead to intolerance, but we needn’t conclude that having faith is a pathology. We need not renounce our cosmopolitanism to reengage and respect those in rural America, and we don’t have to abandon our patriotism to see that the urban mix is also integral to what it means to be an American today. The actual solutions to our problems are to be found in the current no-man’s-land that lies between the two tribes. Reentering it with empiricism and moderation to find different compromises for different issues is the only way out of our increasingly dangerous impasse.

All of this runs deeply against the grain. It’s counterintuitive. It’s emotionally unpleasant. It fights against our very DNA. Compared with bathing in the affirming balm of a tribe, it’s deeply unsatisfying. But no one ever claimed that living in a republic was going to be easy — if we really want to keep it.

Source: Can Our Democracy Survive Tribalism?

ICYMI: A Week of Reckoning [Richard Dawkins disinvite]

One of the better commentaries on the Richard Dawkins’ affair by Andrew Sullivan:

It’s revealing, it seems to me, that Richard Dawkins is the latest target of the authoritarian left — and why he is under attack. This week, he was disinvited from a book event hosted by a progressive radio station, KPFA, because of his criticisms of Islam. “While KPFA emphatically supports serious free speech, we do not support abusive speech,” the radio station explained. “We apologize for not having had broader knowledge of Dawkins’s views [on Islam] much earlier.” This is hilarious. As anyone with a brain and an internet connection knows, Dawkins has made a second career out of vilifying religions of all kinds.

To take one random example, here’s what he has written of Judaism: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Why is he Islamophobic and not also obviously anti-Semitic? Why was one disqualifying and the other not? And I won’t begin to cite his fulminations against Christianity. Perhaps his sin was a recent, not completely relativist pronouncement that “it’s tempting to say all religions are bad, and I do say all religions are bad, but it’s a worse temptation to say all religions are equally bad because they’re not. If you look at the actual impact that different religions have on the world, it’s quite apparent that at present the most evil religion in the world has to be Islam.”

Notice the qualifier: “at the present.” And with that qualifier, who, on earth, could deny this? Is there a Christian regime currently anywhere even close to ISIS’s caliphate? How many Jewish terrorists are setting off bombs at pop concerts full of young girls? History is replete with horrors of all religions when abused by fanatics. But today, it is Islam that is clearly out in front. Dawkins is not, moreover, attacking Muslims. In fact, in the same interview, he immediately followed up with this: “It’s terribly important to modify that because of course that doesn’t mean all Muslims are evil, very far from it. Individual Muslims suffer more from Islam than anyone else.” KPFA couldn’t read that far?

I fear that the truth is Islam has become an untouchable shibboleth for some on the left. What they lacerate in other religions, they refuse to mention in Islam. Sexism, homophobia, the death penalty for apostasy … all of this is to be rationalized if the alternative is Islamophobia. Why, one wonders? Is it because Muslims are a small minority? But the same could be said for Jews. My best guess is simply that, for the far left, anything that is predominantly “of color” is preferable to anything, like Judaism and Christianity, that can usually be described as “white.” That’s how “intersectionality” can be used to defend what would otherwise be indefensible. The preoccupation with race on the far left is now so deep, in other words, it’s becoming simply an inversion of that on the far right.

Source: A Week of Reckoning

Sullivan: Why the Reactionary Right Must Be Taken Seriously

The conclusion of Andrew Sullivan’s exploration and conversations with some thinkers of the reactionary right. A good long and thoughtful read:

This, of course, is not to defend the neo-reactionary response. Their veiled racism is disturbing, and their pessimism a solipsistic pathology. When Anton finds nothing in modernity to celebrate but, as he put it to me, “nice restaurants, good wine, a high standard of living,” it comes off as a kind of pose, deliberately blind to all the constant renewals of life and culture around us. When Houellebecq has one of his characters sigh, “For a man to bring a child into the world now is meaningless,” I chortle. When Dreher hyperventilates that today’s youngsters “could be one of the last generations of this thing called Western civilization” and that American Christians today must “live lives prepared to suffer severe hardship, even death, for our faith,” I take my dogs for a walk. When Yarvin insists that “if the 20th century does not go down in history as the golden age of awful government, it is only because the future holds some fresher hell for us,” I check my Instagram account. There is something hysterical here, too manically certain, bleaker than any human being can bear for long.

And how can you seriously regard our political system and culture as worse than ever before in history? How self-centered do you have to be to dismiss the unprecedented freedom for women, racial minorities, and homosexuals? Or the increased security for the elderly and unemployed, and the greater access to health care by the poor and now the working poor? Compare the air we breathe today with that of the 1950s. Contrast the religious tolerance we take for granted today with the enmities of the past. Compare the racial integration of today, incomplete as it may be, with Jim Crow. Observe the historically low levels of crime compared with the recent past — and the absence of any world wars since 1945. Over the very long haul, too, scholars such as Steven Pinker have found convincing evidence that violence among humans is at the lowest levels since the species first emerged.

If the neo-reactionaries were entirely right, the collapse of our society would surely have happened long before now. But somehow, an historically unprecedented mix of races and cultures hasn’t led to civil war in the United States. In fact, majorities welcome immigration, and enjoy the new cultures that new immigrants bring. A majority backed Trump’s opponent last November. America has assimilated so many before, its culture churning into new forms, without crashing into incoherence. London may be 40 percent nonwhite and repellent to much of rural England — but it works, its inhabitants seem unfazed, its culture remains world-class. The European Union massively overreached by mandating a common currency and imposing brutal austerity, but its conflicts have not led to mass violence, its standard of living remains high, and its achievement of Continental peace is far preferable to the carnage that destroyed Europe in the last century. It may well stagger on, if it can only moderate itself.

It is also one thing to be vigilant about the power of the administrative state and to attempt to reform and modernize it; it is quite another to favor its abolition. The more complex modern society has become, the more expertise is needed to govern it — and where else is that expertise going to come from if not a professional elite? For that matter, the liberal media has nothing like the monopoly it once enjoyed. There are two “Cathedrals” in the 21st century — and only one has helped produce a conservative Supreme Court, a Republican Congress, a Republican president, and near-record Republican majorities in statehouses around the country. Non-leftist thought is suppressed in the academy and is currently subjected to extreme intolerance and even violence on many campuses. That has to change. But some ideas from the neo-reactionary underground — like the notion that carbon has little to do with rising world temperatures — are in the underground for a reason. And still, climate-change denial is the de facto policy of the American government.

Beyond all that, neo-reactionaries have a glaring problem, which is that their proposed solutions are so radical they have no chance whatsoever of coming into existence — and would be deeply reckless to attempt. Their rage eclipses their argument. The notion that public opinion could be marshaled to effect a total reset of American government in favor of a new form of monarchy, as Yarvin suggests, is, to be blunt, bonkers. And is America seriously going to remain a white-majority country? How, exactly? Can the U.S. economy suddenly unwind global manufacturing patterns? Can America simply abandon its global role and its long-standing commitments to allies?

Of course not. And the Trump administration is, day by day, proving this. An isolationist foreign policy collapsed at the first gust of reality. A thinly veiled Muslim immigration ban would have accomplished nothing — most Islamist terrorism is homegrown — and went nowhere. The communities that once thrived off manufacturing or coal mining are not coming back. Even the most draconian mass deportation of undocumented immigrants will not change the demographics of America — or suddenly raise wages for the working class. Global trade has become too entrenched to be reversed. The dismantling of Obamacare dismantled itself — not because of an elite plot but because, when confronted with its being taken away, a majority of Americans balked.

There is, perhaps, a way to use reactionary insights and still construct a feasible center-right agenda. Such a program would junk Reaganite economics as outdated but keep revenue-neutral tax reform, it could even favor redistribution to counter the deep risk to democracy that soaring inequality fosters, and it could fix Obamacare’s technical problems. You could add to this mix stronger border control, a reduction in legal immigration, a pause in free-trade expansion, a technological overhaul of the government bureaucracy, and a reassertion of Americanism over multiculturalism. This is not an impossible direction for the Republican Party to go — though it would have to abandon its know-nothing narcissist of a leader and its brain-dead congressional leaders. The left, for its part, must, it seems to me, escape its own bubble and confront the accelerating extremism of its identity politics and its disdain for millions of “deplorable” white Americans. You will not arrest the reactionary momentum by ignoring it or dismissing it entirely as a function of bigotry or stupidity. You’ll only defuse it by appreciating its insights and co-opting its appeal.

Reaction can be clarifying if it helps us better understand the huge challenges we now face. But reaction by itself cannot help us manage the world we live in today — which is the only place that matters. You start with where you are, not where you were or where you want to be. There are no utopias in the future or Gardens of Eden in our past. There is just now — in all its incoherent, groaning, volatile messiness. Our job, like everyone before us, is to keep our nerve and make the best of it.

Source: Sullivan: Why the Reactionary Right Must Be Taken Seriously

The Left’s Intensifying War On Liberalism

Andrew Sullivan on the negative impact of extreme political correctness:

And the paradox of this within the gay rights movement is an astounding one. For the past twenty years, the open, free-wheeling arguments for marriage equality and military service have persuaded, yes, persuaded, Americans with remarkable speed that reform was right and necessary. Yes: the arguments. If you want to argue that no social progress can come without coercion or suppression of free speech, you have to deal with the empirical fact that old-fashioned liberalism brought gay equality to America far, far faster than identity politics leftism. It was liberalism – not leftism – that gave us this breakthrough. And when Alabama is on the verge of issuing marriage licenses to its citizens, it is the kind of breakthrough that is rightly deemed historic. But instead of absorbing that fact and being proud of it and seeking magnanimity and wondering if other social justice movements might learn from this astonishing success for liberalism and social progress, some on the gay left see only further struggle against an eternally repressive heterosexist regime, demanding more and more sensitivity for slighter and slighter transgressions and actually getting more radicalized – and feeling more victimized and aggrieved – in the process.

Which reveals how dismal this kind of politics is, how bitter and rancid it so quickly becomes, how infantilizing it is. Any “success ” for one minority means merely that the oppression has been shifted temporarily elsewhere. Or it means that we dissenters in a minority have internalized our own oppression (by embracing the patriarchy of civil marriage, or structural hegemonic violence in the military) and are blind to even greater oppression beyond the next curtain of social justice consciousness. Or we find out in bitter debates about who is the biggest sinner, that in some cases, are actually more white than we are female; or more black than we are trans; and on and on. This process has no end. And almost as soon as it begins, many people in the gay rights movement or in feminist movement will soon find themselves under attack for not being sufficiently enlightened, and, in fact, for being complicit and even active in others’ oppression. Chait has a great dissection of what Michelle Goldberg has also observed among some contemporary feminists – an acrid, self-defeating, demoralizing and emotionally crippling form of internecine warfare that persuades no one outside the ever tightening circle of true believers.

The Left’s Intensifying War On Liberalism