Tomasky makes war on The Others: Slate's Jim Newell isn't a racist. Beyond that, we're sure he's redeemable.
Tribally, Newell is one of Us. He's one of the official Good Smart Decent People, the kind who reside Over Here.
Newell is nothing at all like Them. We mention these facts for a reason.
We mention these facts because Newell has criticized yesterday's "broad anti-hate resolution," the resolution which gigantically passed in the House.
"On Thursday, House Democratic leaders finally voted on a resolution condemning all forms of hatred—really, just about any iteration they could think of," Newell writes for Slate, perhaps with a slightly mocking air.
Newell calls the resolution a "self-inflicted wound" for Dems. He describes the alleged boondoggle thusly:
NEWELL (3/7/19): By Wednesday, Democrats had agreed to broaden the resolution to include condemnations of anti-Muslim bigotry. That, too, wasn’t good enough for some elements of the caucus. Democrats continued adding categories to the resolution until about an hour before the vote on Thursday. By then, the list of “traditionally persecuted peoples” against whom hate was rejected in their resolution included “African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and others.”Is Newell allowed to say that? In Newell's view, this roll call of the nations against whom hate should not be directed constituted a self-inflicted wound. The statement was pleasing to no one.
Exactly whom did this expansion of categories please? The left didn’t think any resolution needed to be voted on because they believed Omar’s words had been twisted. Those Democrats who wanted Omar to be reprimanded in the first place couldn’t understand why they weren’t directly and exclusively calling out anti-Semitism. Republicans couldn’t resist gawking.
“I don’t know where to begin,” Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said on the floor, wondering why they were “debating a resolution we should have learned in kindergarten"...
Also according to Newell, this roll call of the nations created an easy target for Republicans. Is it possible that Newell is basically right?
Last night, we saw a Republican strategist on CNN complaining that his group, the Catholics, hadn't been included among Those Who Shouldn't Be Hated. Could this kind of conduct help re-elect Trump?
Well yes, it quite possibly could.
In the resolution, our tribe engaged in one of its less wise activities—the slicing and dicing of Us the People into endless constituent groups. Once this familiar activity starts, it can be extremely hard to stop. That's especially true when you consider the fact that we "rational animals" just aren't enormously sharp—indeed, that we're enormously inclined to engage in emotional overstatement and sad analytical error.
Traditional praise of ourselves to the side, we humans just aren't super-sharp. No moral principle is so clear we can't quickly find a way to reduce its wisdom to dust.
We humans do that all the time. Consider what happened when Don Lemon decided to discuss the claim that presidential candidate Kamala Harris may not be "black enough."
We thought Harris was quite impressive in her formal campaign debut. Soon, though, the slicing and dicing began, with fiery people within Our Own Tents saying that Harris' ancestry subjects her to tribal suspicion.
On the February 11 CNN Tonight, Lemon decided to tackle the emerging brouhaha head-on. In our view, this resulted in one of the most depressing "cable news" "discussions" we've ever seen—and in the latest example of the ways our tribe might help Trump get re-elected.
Classic shortcomings of "cable news" were on vivid display this night. That included the host's almost total inability to define the point he was trying to make; the instant squabbling which broke out, with Lemon and April Ryan constantly interrupting and over-talking each other; and the sheer foolishness of much which was said in this classic "more heat than light" cable display.
You can watch the whole thing at this Ebony site. Fairly soon, the combatants will be saying this:
LEMON (2/11/19): The people who are saying, "Is she black enough?", that's bull. That's B.S. But to—Lemon manfully "cablesplained" what Harris should have said, but Ryan continued to battle. The pair kept talking over each other, thrilling the suits in the CNN booth. Eventually, Adam Serwer tried to help:
RYAN: I know what they're saying—
LEMON: —want a distinction to say, "Is she African-American?" or "Is she black?" or "Is she"—whatever! There is nothing wrong with that. There's a difference between being African-American and being black. Latino people are people of color, but they're not black. They are brown people, OK?
RYAN: She's a woman of color, but she is a black woman.
LEMON: OK, that's fine. I agree with that. I agree with that. But is she African-American? No no no no no no no no no! But is she African-American? That is the difference. There is nothing wrong with that. No one is trying to take anything away from her.
RYAN: Let's go down into her lineage—
LEMON: I think you're falling into a trap with that. All she had to do was say, "I am black, but I'm not African-American." That's it.
SERWER: Kamala Harris has—she has actively worked to associate herself with African-American culture, particularly by going to Howard and in other ways. So I think, II think yes, it is not unfair to make the distinction between Jamaican and African-American, but I do think that question, "Is she black enough?" is maybe not the right question for getting the information they we're trying to get.Your lizard may tell you that this overall segment made sense. If so, we'll suggest that your lizard may be too tribal.
LEMON: But I think that people lump that, is by saying that there is a distinction—
There is a difference between being Puerto Rican and being Mexican and being Costa Rican—
LEMON: All of them are from Latin America, and that is all fine, well and good. So what is wrong with asking someone who is of color, black, are they African-American, are they Jamaican, whatever it is? But it is not saying—
RYAN: She is a black woman in America.
LEMON: We are saying that! No one is saying she's not black! We are asking if she is African-American. There is a distinction.
As Lemon and Ryan played "Who's on first," endlessly over-talking each other, voters were streaming to Donald J. Trump. You could also say that Lemon and Ryan were simply doing "the rational animal walk."
There is no principle so basic and obvious that we humans can't, and won't, find a way to misapply and overextend it. In the modern context, when this behavior drives The Others away, we liberals say that they're racist.
That's because we floundering humans are strongly inclined to tribally loathe The Others. Consider another example:
During Campaign 2016, Candidate Clinton bungled badly with her remark about the irredeemable people in the basket of deplorables. But so what? Three weeks ago, The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky decided to go there too.
We met Tomasky long ago; we've always liked the cut of his jib. But tribal loathing can devour us all. As Professor Harari explains, it seems to be bred in the bone.
In an astonishing essay, Tomasky undertook to explain who Those People, The Others, the Trump voters, are.
According to Tomasky's unscientific assessment, thirty percent of the public love Trump because "he's their cultural avenger." But what about the other ten percent who are supporting Trump? Sadly, incredibly, as if to guarantee Trump's re-election, Tomasky, a plainly bright and decent person, descended to saying this:
TOMASKY (2/18/19): I’m just guessing here, but I think they come in three flavors, these people. The dumb, the selfish, and the cynical.Poor Tomasky! Trying to persuade this gang "is like trying to teach a dog to use a toilet!" Unlike Tomasky himself, they're just so f*cking dumb!
First, the dumb. They’re the least interesting. There’s not much to say about them. They’re just… dumb. Nothing in their daily lives has changed much one way or the other, and they don’t remember anything from one week to the next anyway, so the idea that they might for example hold the memory in their heads of the stories about how the guy created a foundation and a “university” that were both total scams, among about a thousand other revolting things, is basically hopeless. They’re hopeless. Trying to get them to connect dots is like trying to teach a dog to use a toilet.
In fairness, Tomasky was "just guessing" this day. That said, we don't think we've ever seen a piece any dumber than his. Still and all, it's bred in the bone. Let's recall what Harari has said:
HARARI: Tolerance is not a Sapiens trademark. In modern times, a small difference in skin color, dialect or religion has been enough to prompt one group of Sapiens to set about exterminating another group. Would ancient Sapiens have been more tolerant towards an entirely different human species? It may well be that when Sapiens encountered Neanderthals, the result was the first and most significant ethnic-cleansing campaign in history."When Sapiens encountered Neanderthals"—or when self-impressed people within our own tribe encounter the dog/toilet breed!
We'll leave you with a videotape from last evening's Last Word. In the segment in question, Lawrence interviewed Paula Duncan, one of the jurors who convicted Paul Manafort of the various financial crimes for which he has now been sentenced.
Lawrence has interviewed Duncan before—and she bears an interesting distinction. Even though she voted to convict Manafort on all 18 counts, she's a Trump supporter.
She voted for Trump in 2016. Last night, she said she plans to vote for Trump again. Last night, she told Lawrence that she thinks Trump is doing good things, but she said she'd vote to convict him too—for example, if evidence presented at a trial showed that he had broken the law in those payments to settle Stormy Daniels' extortion demands.
(We refer to the sleazy extortion demands which, in the view of our weirdly unhinged tribe, made Daniels a "feminist hero.")
Lawrence always praises Duncan for following the law in the Manafort trial despite her partisan preference. That said, there's one other thing he never does—he never asks Duncan to explain what good things she thinks Trump has done.
We humans comically claim to be "the rational animal." Despite this familiar bit of self-praise, we're very strongly disinclined to speak to The Others. Instead, we're strongly inclined to insult The Others, as Tomasky did in taking his guess about the dog/toilet breed.
Duncan is going to vote for Trump. So will many other people. But in a hundred million years, you'll never see Rachel or Lawrence ask any such voter why.
Rachel Maddow doesn't stoop to speak to The Others, to people like Duncan, whose votes we liberals need. She's took busy dreaming of Manafort's death in prison, persuading people that our tribe is vile, as war-like tribes constantly are.
Meanwhile, Duncan would think that Lemon's session with Ryan was nuts. If you watch Lemon and Ryan argue and interrupt each other over a point which was never explained, you might not necessarily think that Duncan is wrong on that point.
Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves (TM) have told us that this is how Donald J. Trump may win re-election. Mournfully, they say that this is what we "humans" always were like.
"Eventually there came Mister Trump's War," they've then despondently said. They communicate through nocturnal emissions which the haters compare to mere dreams.