Part 5—Denouncing the toast of the TED talks: In our view, Nicholas Kristof’s January 25 column is one of the strangest we’ve ever read.
Four days later, he wrote a follow-up column. It was quite strange too.
In his initial column, Kristof denounced the many “wealthy Americans” who would have denounced his late friend, Kevin Green, due to their “empathy gap.” As he started his follow-up column, the gentleman’s moral superiority was on full display once again.
So was his rather puzzling approach to a major American problem. Hard-copy headline included:
KRISTOF (1/29/15): How Do We Increase Empathy?In a column straight outta The Onion, Kristof proceeded to list some of the ways we might “increase empathy.” He never explained how this would help people in tough job markets.
In my last column, I wrote about a high school buddy, Kevin Green, a warm and helpful man who floundered in a tough job market, hurt his back and died at the age of 54. The column was a call for empathy for those who are struggling, but, predictably, scolds complained that Kevin’s problems were of his own making.
So what do we know about empathy and how to nurture it?
How might we increase empathy? According to Kristof, research says that we should go out into nature more. We should look at images from space, preferably producing “feelings of awe.”
We should listen to “uplifting stories about sacrifice.” We should “think about suffering,” thus “activating the vagus nerve.”
We should “read literary fiction by the likes of Don DeLillo or Alice Munro—but not beach fiction or nonfiction.”
These are excellent tips, but they seem irrelevant to the questions raised by Kristof’s initial column. In that column, Kristof said his late friend’s terrible problems were largely caused by the absence of well-compensated working-class jobs.
By now, this problem has been identified by everyone on the planet. But this problem won’t be addressed if Kristof’s readers take more walks in the woods or think about suffering more.
And not only that! According to Kristof, the “empathy gap” is found among the rich, not among us, the elect. If we assume that this gap exists, it won’t be addressed if Kristof’s readers activate their vagus nerves.
Alas! In his pair of columns about his late friend, Kristof offered no ideas about ways to increase the supply of good working-class jobs. Beyond that, he offered no ideas about the ways to reach out to centrists and conservatives to build wider political coalitions in support of improving the social safety net.
He simply told us how we might increase empathy within our own enlightened tribe. We have no idea how this is supposed to address the problem which, he said, lay at the heart of Kevin Green’s life.
Beyond that, did you notice what Kristof did at the start of this follow-up column? That’s right! When he summarized his late friend’s life, he eliminated all the facts which might make perfectly decent people disapprove of his friend!
He then said “Grrrrr” in exasperation.
Alas! It seems some people had left comments with which Kristof didn’t agree—comments which may have noted the obvious problems lurking in the tragic story he originally told.
Look at Kristof’s shortened account of Kevin Green’s life! He drops the part of the story where Green’s brother says that Green didn’t fully commit to seeking a job. He also drops the part of the story where Green fails to pay child support for his twin sons, who end up failing in school and then going to jail.
In this follow-up column, Kristof drops the parts of the story which might make a sensible person disapprove of his friend. He then expresses exasperations about the lack of empathy found among The Other Tribe, the bad people whom he disdains.
He teaches us how to make ourselves finer, stroking our egos as he does. He toys with research in this column, as he sometimes does.
(We especially hate it when Kristof toys with research about public schools, as he has often done when criticizing our lazy public school teachers. But he toys with research fairly often, as is the habit of the swells who function as Toasts of the TED Talks.)
Here at THE HOWLER, we often say “Grrrr” ourselves! We do so when we read the sanctimonious columns of Kristof.
Quite routinely, Kristof strokes us on the pseudo-left, telling us we’re The Very Good People. He attacks the morals of The Others, who he casts as The Very Bad People—even when they object to a story which seems to involve some heinous parental misconduct.
Tribal con men have played these cards all through the annals of time. When Kristof does so in this case, he proposes no solutions to a major social problem like the lack of good working-class jobs. He just hardens the wedges which keep us from forming, or even from seeking, winning political coalitions involving our red and blue tribes, each of which is getting looted by The One Percent.
Increasingly, this is the way we tend to do politics here on the pseudo-left. We spend our time denouncing the morals of the people we need to form coalitions.
As in the Kevin Green column, it doesn’t even have to be clear that those on the right are actually wrong! We pleasure ourselves denouncing The Others in every way we can.
We especially seem to enjoy this practice when we get to scatter our R-bombs around. Amazingly, Kristof himself was denounced on this basis just as these columns appeared.
As always, we pseudo-liberals were killing the pig—but this time, the pig was Kristof himself! This is the way it went down:
The whole thing started on Friday, January 23. In that morning’s editions, the New York Times published a front-page account of the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a Cleveland policeman.
To all appearances, the shooting of Rice involved the worst possible type of police work. In response to that front-page report, Kristof issued a tweet which was somewhat dumb, but then again not all that dumb:
“Activists perhaps should have focused less on Michael Brown, more on shooting of 12-yr-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland.”
Just for the record, Kristof is often somewhat dumb, even in his columns. Don’t let credentials mislead you!
It’s also true that people’s tweets may often tend to be dumb. Even our saints are restricted in what they can say in a tweet!
What made Kristof’s tweet perhaps a tiny bit dumb? Michael Brown was shot and killed several months before the shooting of Rice.
People thought police misconduct was involved in the shooting of Brown. There was no way to sit around waiting for a 12-year-old boy to get shot a few months later.
Protestors protested in real time. This made perfect sense.
In what way was Kristof's tweet not dumb? Duh! By now, many people had noted the fact that the shooting of Rice was less “complicated” than the shooting of Brown.
As matters turned out, it was somewhat hard to nail down the facts in the shooting of Brown. But the shooting of Rice was videotaped—and it resembled a drive-by shooting, so bad was the police work.
By the time of Kristof’s tweet, many people had noted that the facts about the shooting of Brown had been a bit hard to nail down. By way of contrast, the shooting of Rice was right there on videotape. On its face, it was a thoroughly ridiculous example of (fatally) bad work by the Cleveland police.
Should activists try to make sure that citizens see the videotape of that later shooting? Might that tape convince some people that police misconduct can be a real problem, in a way the shooting of Brown possibly hadn’t achieved?
Presumably, yes, that could happen! Presumably, everyone can understand what Kristof seems to have been saying in his disgraceful tweet.
Sorry! Kristof had broken the law of the tribe in that outrageous tweet! Because of this misconduct, he was quickly denounced as the worst kind of running dog.
He tried to respond and was savaged further (see below). By Monday morning, the crazy Joan Walsh was willing to type this assessment:
WALSH (1/26/15): To me, Kristof is not the enemy. He’s done great work on class, and occasionally on race. Of course he’s privileged and thus occasionally blinkered and befuddled when it comes to race, but someone who consistently tries to understand and communicate about racial injustice is an imperfect ally; a work in progress, not an enemy. People I respect may disagree.Nicholas Kristof isn’t the enemy, Joan Walsh bravely cried. That said, people whom Walsh respects may disagree on that point!
Really? Who could possibly disagree about that? Who could possibly think that Nicholas Kristof is “an enemy” of progressives when it comes to matters of race?
What person could be crazy enough to brook so crazy a thought? To brook so crazy a thought because of one imperfect tweet?
To borrow from the great Maureen Dowd, Kristof is so scripted on race that’s he’s practically lactating. Only a few months ago, he published a series of five columns in the Times under this condescending headline: “When Whites Just Don’t Get It.”
In best Kristoffian fashion, he rattled off every standard liberal belief about race in the course of those five columns, all of which bore that condescending headline. He never let it cross his mind that someone could reasonably disagree with his outlook in some way.
To Kristof, disagreement could only mean that the “white person” in question “just didn’t get it.” If you don’t think what the great Kristof thinks, your soul gets kicked to the curb.
Kristof worked from this same framework in his columns about Kevin Green. To Kristof, The Others are very bad people who make him say Grrrr. This is true even if they disapprove of a parent who refuses to support his children, who then end up in jail!
Through a full five-column series, Kristof took the same all-knowing approach to matters of race. He recited every part of all our liberal scripts.
But now, because of one wayward tweet, Walsh was saying something truly crazy. She was saying that she respects people who think Kristof is “an enemy” on matters of race!
How dumb, how crazy, must somebody be to make so crazy a statement? How Stalinist must that person be? How devoted must a person be to pledging allegiance to every aspect of Tribal Dogma?
We can’t believe that Walsh is that dumb; we assume she was simply stroking the herd. For what it’s worth, she took the same approach the next day to the running dog Jonathan Chait, typing this nugget of ISIS-like wisdom:
“Like I said about Kristof Monday: I’m not prepared to dismiss Chait as hopeless, or put him in the enemy camp...”
Chait isn’t yet “in the enemy camp!” Although that day may come!
Question: How crazy must a progressive be to see Kristof in “the enemy camp” on matters of race? To flirt with that crazy language?
Back in the day, we progressives showed that we can easily be that crazy! Our Maoist and Stalinist factions helped create the atmosphere which led to the Ages of Nixon and Reagan. Now, you see a reinvented weirdo like Walsh pushing the same kind of script.
We assume that Walsh really isn’t that dumb. We assume she's just playing a game.
But that tribal game can do tons of harm. Sadly, we think Kristof was playing a version of that same game in his sanctimonious, know-it-all columns about his late friend.
Kristof has become quite famous stroking the liberal world’s privates. His columns are often quite dumb—and to our eye, they’re just getting dumber. That first one on Green was a beaut.
The Dumb has worked well for the pseudo-right. Can it really work well for progressives?
Running dog tries to escape: Chait had written a muddy piece about a practice or movement he calls “political correctness.”
We wouldn't use that term ourselves. We didn't think Chait did a very good job defining his basic complaint.
That said, he hit one nail on the head. This is precisely what happened when Kristof tried to explain what he meant in his offensive tweet:
CHAIT (1/27/15): If a person who is accused of bias attempts to defend his intentions, he merely compounds his own guilt...If you are accused of bias, or “called out,” reflection and apology are the only acceptable response—to dispute a call-out only makes it worse. There is no allowance in p.c. culture for the possibility that the accusation may be erroneous.To see our tribal mates killing the pig, you can just click here. Kristof had made a fatal mistake. He had tried to explain what he meant!
In this matter, Chait got it right. Every word the running dog said just made his thought crimes worse!