PERFORMATIVE BELIEF: What does it mean to be mentally ill?

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2020

Trump/Krug and the end of the world: What does it mean to be mentally ill? 

As laypersons, we can't quite answer your question. Mental illness is a fairly nebulous concept. Some people even say that it doesn't exist. 

We can't explain what mental illness "is," but we know what it looks like. Today, we provide two examples. 

Our first example involves some conduct by Donald J. Trump. In this morning's Washington Post, Philip Rucker's discussion of Bob Woodward's book includes this comical, pitiful passage: 
RUCKER (9/10/20): “I don’t think Obama’s smart,” Trump told Woodward. “I think he’s highly overrated. And I don’t think he’s a great speaker.” Trump added that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un thought Obama was “an asshole.” 
[Woodward's book] includes the first reported excerpts of letters Trump exchanged with Kim, and quotes Trump in his interviews with Woodward using expletives to defend their pen-pal relationship.
[...]
Trump was taken with Kim’s flattery, Woodward writes, telling the author pridefully that Kim had addressed him as “Excellency.” Trump remarked that he was awestruck meeting Kim for the first time in 2018 in Singapore, thinking to himself, “Holy shit,” and finding Kim to be “far beyond smart.” Trump also boasted to Woodward that Kim “tells me everything,” including a graphic account of Kim having his uncle killed. 
Trump did not share his letters to Kim—“Those are so top secret,” the president said—but Woodward obtained them independently. He writes that Trump sent Kim a copy of the New York Times featuring a picture of the two men on the front page. “Chairman, great picture of you, big time,” Trump wrote on the paper in marker. (Trump falsely boasted to Woodward: “He never smiled before. I’m the only one he smiles with.”)
Kim Jong Un had "never smiled before"—and he thinks Obama's an asshole. It's always possible that the quoted remark was tongue in cheek, but the overall lunacy seems clear. 

The lunacy seems clear. For further elucidation, you'd have to speak with a (carefully selected) medical specialist. You'd have to speak with someone prepared to discuss the world of the sociopath without defaulting, in this case, to a political slant. 

We don't know much about mental illness, but we know it when we see it! Unfortunately, the modern upper-end mainstream press has agreed that the commander's apparent mental illness simply cannot be discussed. 

We're left with a perpetual "cable news" Groundhog Day. We're left with the sputtering, angry pseudo-discussions which unfolded for the ten millionth time on last night's Anderson Cooper program. 

At CNN, it had fallen to Jamie Gangel to read Woodward's book and report its contents. At 8:21 PM Eastern, she assessed Trump's behavior in the standard way: 

"It's inexplicable," Gangel said, to her sputtering colleagues. 

Gangel said that Trump's behavior has been inexplicable. No one suggested that the explanation for the commander's remarkable conduct may lie in the realm of mental illness. Such rumination is not allowed within the tents of this guild. 

The commander in chief may be "mentally ill," but our upper-end press corps has long been "rationally impaired." They refuse to speak to medical specialists about their commander's very strange conduct. They prefer to be newly shocked each day while saying it can't be explained. 

Just a guess! The commander's behavior makes perfect sense if we assume that he's some version of a "sociopath," as some people are. That said, someone else who seems to be mentally ill emerged on the scene last week. 

This second person is, or was, a mere professor. But her unfortunate case strikes us as highly instructive. 

We refer to the unfortunate case of Jessica Krug, who has resigned from her tenured position as an associate professor of history at George Washington University. 

Krug's resignation followed the uproar over her recent essay at Medium. The leading authority on this matter offers this capsule account:
Jessica A. Krug, a former associate professor of history at George Washington University lived for years under an assumed race and ethnicity until she disclosed the truth in a September 3, 2020, essay on the blog website Medium. Krug's having assumed identities such as that of a Bronx-bred Afro-"boricua" (Afro-Puerto Rican) with the "salsa" name "La Bombalera", she confessed within a blog post entitled "The Truth, and the Anti-Black Violence of My Lies": "I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness."
Is Krug some version of "mentally ill?" If you watch this pitiable videotape, in which she speaks to the New York City Council in her La Bombalera persona, we'll suggest that the question may seem to answer itself. 

That said, do modern Americans really believe that some people are "mentally ill?" Widespread reactions to people like Trump and Krug suggest that we secretly don't. 

On the one hand, the modern journalistic elite has agreed that they mustn't discuss the possibility that Trump is mentally ill.  In the case of Krug, her bizarre behavior has been met with anger more often than with some form of sympathy concerning the existence of some type of personal illness. 

Like Trump, Krug is aggressively scolded for her absurd behavior. Little thought is given to the possibility that she seems to be "ill" in some way. Little thought is given to the question of what "mental illness" means. 

Donald J. Trump could destroy the world. By way of contrast, Jessica Krug was merely a (highly-regarded) history professor. 

Krug didn't hold the nuclear codes. But her craziness, and her academic success, may teach us about the end of the world, which experts say is approaching. 

If Krug is crazy, she has been crazy in the general area of "race." Perhaps for that reason, her elite employers couldn't discern that she was crazy, and the elite guild to which she belonged was crazy about her book: 
[Krug] is the author of the well-reviewed work of Columbian, Brazilian, and West African histories Fugitive Modernities: Kisama and the Politics of Freedom, which treats the Quiçama people, at home in Angola and within diaspora, especially in Brazil. The book was a finalist for the Frederick Douglass Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize. Krug's additional studies focus on African American history and Latin America. 
"Fugitive Modernities?" Yes, that's the name of the (highly-praised) book! Because Duke is always involved in these matters, the book was published by the Duke University Press, by whom it's described as follows: 
DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS: During the early seventeenth century, Kisama emerged in West Central Africa (present-day Angola) as communities and an identity for those fleeing expanding states and the violence of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The fugitives mounted effective resistance to European colonialism despite—or because of—the absence of centralized authority or a common language. 

In Fugitive Modernities, Jessica A. Krug offers a continent- and century-spanning narrative exploring Kisama's intellectual, political, and social histories. Those who became Kisama forged a transnational reputation for resistance, and by refusing to organize their society around warrior identities, they created viable social and political lives beyond the bounds of states and the ruthless market economy of slavery. 

Krug follows the idea of Kisama to the Americas, where fugitives in the New Kingdom of Grenada (present-day Colombia) and Brazil used it as a means of articulating politics in fugitive slave communities. By tracing the movement of African ideas, rather than African bodies, Krug models new methods for grappling with politics and the past, while showing how the history of Kisama and its legacy as a global symbol of resistance that has evaded state capture offers essential lessons for those working to build new and just societies. 
 Question: "By tracing the movement of African ideas, rather than African bodies," does Krug really "model new methods for grappling with politics and the past, while showing how the history of Kisama and its legacy as a global symbol of resistance that has evaded state capture offers essential lessons for those working to build new and just societies?" 

In theory, everything's possible! That said, we'll sign on as skeptics. For one thing, we've read the book's very first passage, in which Graf seems to be pretending that she grew up in a barrio. 

We've also read her Acknowledgements, which begin as shown and end by listing the elite financial contributors who bought into the overall con: 
KRUG: For years, I told everyone who knew I was writing a book that my entire acknowledgments section would be cribbed from Biggie: “This book is dedicated to all the teachers who told me I’d never amount to nothing . . ." And while there is no small part of me that is still tempted to leave it there, to stunt on every institution and person who has ever stood in my way, by framing my work or Biggie’s like this, we reinforce the pernicious idea that amounting to something can be measured by the metrics that I inherently reject. 
Whatever. We've also read her Notes on Cartography, the pompous section in which she explains why "the maps in this book depart from convention. They do not center the Atlantic Ocean. They do not orient north." 

All in all, this book is pure pose from before Chapter One.  Scholarly elites gulped it whole.

Conceivably, a disordered person could write an outstanding book. Our main thought here is this: 

Until the revolution occurs, nothing will ever be gained from this crazy person's ruminations on Kiasma and the racism of maps which orient north. But even as major foundations shoveled money into this project, we've almost never seen a serious journalistic discussion of our nation's low-income schools, or of the good, decent kids who attend them.

As we've often noted, no one cares about the kids who attend those schools; few things could be more clear. Meanwhile, a serious crackpot is being funded by elite institutions as she writes the latest useless book from inside the one percent of the fewer than one percent. 

We also think of the endless, grotesque report on the front page of Tuesday's Washington Post. If Trump is the craziness of the right, race is the craziness now being worshiped by our own failing tribe. 

There's nothing our tribe won't rush to accept as long as it seems to support the received wisdom of our new tulip craze. Newspapers which never cared a whit about race now pretend to care about nothing else. 

More on that to follow.

As November's election approaches, we seem to be observing the end of the world—the end of "the American experiment." The rewards had simply become too damn high, and new technologies gave every lunatic in the nation a chance to affect what gets said and believed.

Tomorrow (and later today), we'll continue on from here. But our capsule account would be this: 

Donald J. Trump is almost surely mentally ill, but our "elites" are rationally impaired.  

This reflects the way our species has always been wired, despondent anthropologists have said.

Tomorrow: Herbstreit wept

76 comments:

  1. "The lunacy seems clear."

    Eh, what?? If anyone's lunacy seems clear in this episode, dear Bob, I'm afraid it's yours, unfortunately.

    ...and your Jessica Krug dembot isn't crazy either, she's just a garden variety dembot. Your liberal-hitlerian cult is full of them. As if you, dear Bob, haven't noticed.

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    2. It's too bad Trump is responsible for the deaths of so many tens of thousands of American's lives. Without question this makes him the worst president in our history. But he was already horrible even before he sent scores and scores of thousands of his own people to death needlessly.

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    3. Dumbfuck: The United States passed Italy today in deaths adjusted for population. By November, we'll be number one in the world in deaths. Too bad Trump decided to lie to us about it. Too bad Trump is such a poor leader and such a poor person.

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  2. Ms.Krug, Kisama brings to mind VSNaipaul on drummology and that professor who headed the Institute of Drummology!

    ReplyDelete
  3. "We can't explain what mental illness "is," but we know what it looks like."

    Somerby doesn't know what mental illness looks like. He likes to call names.

    For example, if someone had psychosomatic blindness, could Somerby tell the difference between them and someone who was physically blind?

    Somerby thinks he knows how to recognize deviance but he doesn't have a clue how to tell what the cause might be, and that cause determines whether someone is mentally ill or has some other type of difficulty, perhaps situational or organic.

    So Somerby should not be talking these terms. He shouldn't be using mental illness for political purposes and he shouldn't be using what constitutes a real problem for many people to play word games online. This reveals the ugliness of Somerby's soul, that he thinks it is OK to use mental illness this way.

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  4. "The lunacy seems clear. For further elucidation, you'd have to speak with a (carefully selected) medical specialist. You'd have to speak with someone prepared to discuss the world of the sociopath without defaulting, in this case, to a political slant. "

    This is ridiculous. You don't "carefully select" a doctor in order to get the diagnosis you want. If you have a concern, you get multiple opinions. Psychiatry is not a political field and professionals are trained to set aside personal concerns (such as politics) in order to make an objective evaluation. Dr. Bandy Lee has perhaps given Somerby the impression that all mental health professionals are like her -- willing to set aside her training to attack Trump. Further, the passage Somerby quoted doesn't reflect sociopathy but narcissism if anything. But Somerby doesn't care whether he gets the terms right. Lunacy is lunacy, amirite?

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    1. Not exactly correct. You get professionals with a certain standard (usually peer-reviewed) and make sure they are clear of conflict of interest. That's how you get a solid assessment.

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  5. "They refuse to speak to medical specialists about their commander's very strange conduct. "

    Somerby blames the press for not seeking comments on Trump's actions and statements from mental health specialists.

    It would be against professional ethics to attempt to diagnose a politician based on his public statements and behavior. A competent mental health professional would not attempt a diagnosis without being able to evaluate the person using interviews and diagnostic tests.

    You wouldn't expect a doctor to assess Trump's physical condition from his difficulty speaking and walking down ramps, so why expect one to assess Trump's mental and emotional state from public behavior either?

    Even Mary Trump said that she had not had the opportunity to evaluate Donald Trump and she confined her discussion to what she could observe as a family member. She has been careful to say that she cannot properly diagnose him without tests that he will not take.

    Stigmatizing mental illness is also wrong. That is what Somerby does when he applies words like crazy and lunacy to Trump's behavior. It is enough to explain why Trump's behavior is wrong, without implying that the many mentally ill people who are attempting to live normal lives have anything in common with Trump. This crusade is one of the least empathetic things I've seen Somerby write here.

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    1. “Anonymous” means never having to worry about calling Somerby demented.

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    2. Where do I call Somerby demented?

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    3. This whole blog is dedicated to labeling people. Liberals are “ virtue signallers.” Certain people are “mentally ill:” Trump, Krug, Roger Stone, Kurt Gödel.

      Somerby opens himself to being called names.

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  6. "Is Krug some version of "mentally ill?""

    Later Somerby refers to her deception as a con. But it matters whether Krug herself believed her assumed identity to be real, was immersed in a fantasy or fabricated identity, or whether she was aware that she was deceiving people. A mental health professional would be able to get at the heart of her beliefs about herself and her motives for becoming someone else.

    If Krug has psychological reasons for being someone else, then her admission is a step toward better mental health, not an indication of illness. Acceptance of the reality of her past is a healthy step, progress toward self-acceptance.

    Somerby has no basis for impeaching Krug's work as a historian. That is just a nastiness arising from his own inner demons, where he doesn't seem to be able to tolerate any woman in a position of respect, whether a journalist or a "mere" professor. Krug's work was peer-reviewed, which means that authorities on her subject matter reviewed the book and her corpus before promoting her and awarding her tenure -- a big deal among academics. That doesn't depend on her self-presentation but on the work itself. Tenure review happens without ever meeting the professor who did the work but by evaluating the work itself, something Somerby is unqualified to do.

    And then there is his underlying assumption that someone who is mentally ill cannot accomplish anything solid and meaningful as a historian (or in any job, by extension). There is no connection between work and one's mental health and many mentally ill people accomplish great things. Somerby should know this, but in his haste to attack another female writer, he forgets about the famous individuals who have not let their struggles with mental illness prevent them from accomplishment.

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  7. Somerby devalues the complexity inherent in mental health diagnostics and exhibits a baseness of spirit by calling Trump crazy, but you have no difficulty in accusing the entire police profession of being driven by a voracious reflexive racism that makes spiders in their feeding processes seem poignantly conflicted.

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    1. The racism is obvious in the statistical differences in rates of police shooting of black people compared to white people. There are many other studies showing similar disparities in other aspects of policing. It is time to address these disparities because of their inherent unfairness. We as a country hold equality as a value (all men are created equal and are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness). The words used to describe the criticism of policing are yours, not mine.

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    2. You don’t address anything by categorically labeling an occupation as being endemically racist and de facto using any form of data to then scatter-gun its professionals.

      One of the considerations in the percentages you mention is the likelihood of encountering the police in life or death circumstances.

      You do your argument no favor by being “most likely” to make cartoons out of complex sociological matters, even as you feign moral outrage over Somerby calling Trump nuts.

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    3. And you, Cecelia, do yourself and your side no favor by dismissing the entire discussion.

      I think it is more helpful to discuss it in terms of racial bias, rather than racism. A bias can exist without overt racism. That is what is generally meant by “structural racism.”

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    4. mh, I didn’t dismiss the entire discussion, I‘ve been engaging in it.

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    5. Gaslighting is not engaging in a discussion, Cecelia. Nor is parroting right wing talking points.

      You claim to understand the complex sociological issues surrounding policing, but then dismiss the commenter’s view, that racism is one of those issues, as cartoonish.

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    6. Cecelia, you said “You don’t address anything by...” and then everything after that was a misrepresentation.

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    7. I'm not feigning moral outrage over Somerby calling Trump nuts. I really feel that way about it.

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  8. "We've also read her Notes on Cartography, the pompous section in which she explains why "the maps in this book depart from convention. They do not center the Atlantic Ocean. They do not orient north." "

    This is common in cartography today. Krug didn't invent it. Maps always center whatever is of most importance to the mapmakers. A book about Africa should not be Eurocentric in its maps.

    There is a joke about this circulating on Facebook that shows a map redrawn to focus on the areas most important to fish.

    Somerby displays his ignorance with this carp against Krug (no fish pun intended).

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    1. No, my dear, Somerby labeled some cartographic virtue-signaling by a woman who co-opted several racial personas for fun and profit, as being just one more pose.

      That’s on the money.

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    2. You are mind-reading and assuming there is virtue involved in following practices that are common in academia. You don't know why she adopted a different persona and you don't know anything about cartography.

      How can there be money involved in a book that won't be read outside the 1% of 1%, as Somerby puts it?

      Adopting a practice that is appropriate for studying the So. hemisphere isn't a pose, except to ignorant fucks like you and Somerby.

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    3. Oh, sure. And the book’s equally high-handed Acknowledgements in which Krug referenced the travails of being born a poor black child, is just as rigorous in its forthright intellectualism.

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    4. Somerby has not mentioned Covid of late, and here we see him ignore the nausea-inducing tape of Trump saying how he deliberately caused the deaths of thousands of Americans.

      Where is Brenda Lee? Trump will be gone in a few months, but we will still be stuck with the mentally damaged here at TDH.

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    5. How are you stuck here?

      Even with Covid-19, surely you can get a better paying job than trolling political blogs.

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    6. Cecelia, Acknowledgements are personal, not part of the academic content of the book. Surely you can tell the difference between that and the text?

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    7. They comments weren’t at all personal. They were part of the contrivance of a false identity.

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    8. "contrivances of false identity"

      Like when business owners were called "job creators".

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    9. Contrivance of a false personal identity. She wasn't falsifying some historical figure, she was falsifying her own life and self.

      We all construct our own identities. We tell others about some parts of our lives and not others. We emphasize some things that happened to us and not others. We can see ourselves as heroes or victims or strivers and achievers or appendages of other people, as childlike or competent. Krug took it further than most people and incorporated aspects of culture that she hadn't herself experienced but perhaps admired or had an affinity for, perhaps replacing a past that she wanted to reject for some personal reason. Many people create an idealized childhood and heritage for themselves. Krug took it too far and her reasons for doing so are also personal -- Somerby doesn't know why she did it, and neither do you and I.

      Here are some other things that people routinely falsify: (1) resumes, especially college degrees but also job histories and skills, (2) income tax returns and finances, (3) drinking and drug use, disease and health status, height and weight, (4) divorces and romantic relationships, especially sexual history, (5) criminal record if any, troubles with law and authority, firings from jobs, school discipline, (6) religious practice, (7) abortions and miscarriages, (8) presence of undesirable family members, especially parental misbehavior and abuse, (9) trauma of various kinds, (10) past military service, presence or absence, actions during, role in service. It sounds like Krug became her work.

      Cecelia, you and Somerby seem to think this is as simple as creating a false identity the way a con artist does, getting a new driver's license and bank account, taking on a new name. The difference is that the con artist never believes he is a different person. He knows he is doing it to deceive others, to steal from them. There is no evidence Krug was trying to dupe others, beyond herself. It seems more likely she was replacing a past she didn't like with one more consistent with her interests and activities, as most people do in small ways. Her problem is that she went further than most people go, perhaps over a period of time.

      People generally get angry when they have been duped by someone into believing false things. They may feel foolish for having believed another person. This is one of the aspects of being "undercover" that experts warn about. If you were concealing your identity in order to study other people, they will get angry when they find out the truth, no matter how good your intentions. I am not suggesting that Krug was working undercover, but the anger is the same. People don't like to have their trust betrayed. Even though people lie about aspects of their past and their identities all the time. That is part of the harm in taking on a false front, it undermines relationships with others.

      I see the Acknowledgements as a continuation of her false identity, not the initial contrivance of it. It was already established in her life. What she wrote was an expression of that self. It was still personal because it was about herself, not part of the content of her book. It is where you thank the people who helped you write the book.

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    10. And you say this because you are a personal friend of Krug and she has told you what her impersonation is all about?

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    11. The “no” was to dumb Anonymouse 3:39pm.

      To 3:38pm, since “unfathomable” is the word of the day, I’ll use it in questioning your sincerity in waxing on about the insidiousness of racism in making even black police officers unconscious of their dehumanization of minorities.

      It’s unfathomable how you can do that, yet not understand that Krug didn’t create an identity, she stole one. She stole it from her minority colleagues, who doubtlessly have experienced racism. She concocted a past that gave her the gravitas that does come from real life experience and she used it to take time, attention, and money from people to whom it isn’t a charade.

      What sort of jive-cracker race-baiting two-bit hustler does that?

      And you compare this to fudging your weight and commend Krug for her intelligence quotient because that resulted in being an actual scholar. So who should care.

      sheesh.

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    12. So, Cecelia, you don’t believe she was mentally ill?

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    13. I’m don’t assume she’s that.


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    14. Cecelia, there is no Anonymous at 3:39.

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    15. So, Cecelia, apparently mental illness IS nebulous. You disagree with Somerby about Krug. What about his view of Trump? If he’s wrong about these two, perhaps he’s not so good at spotting mental illness as he thinks, which means he may be wrong about the race thing too.

      Delete
    16. She didn't steal someone else's identity. That refers to illegal use of someone else's bank account etc., it doesn't refer to whether someone presents themselves as a Bible-following Christian when they are not, or tells people they are part Cherokee when it is only a small part, or wears a Dashiki despite not being from Africa or a muu muu when not Hawaiian, or pretends to be a stay-at-home mother when they are working from home. Krug took it to an extreme, but she didn't do any harm. What would be the difference between being married to a boricua and taking on that culture in the home and doing it simply because she finds it more comfortable than her initial heritage?

      You dismiss my statements out of hand, but ALL identity is nothing more than absorption of culture via experience and there is nothing that says you cannot choose that culture instead of being born into it. When you become a sports fan, you take on all kinds of traditions that you may not have had in your home at birth, but so what? College students frequently think of themselves as poor because of their tight budgets, but they are not stealing the identity of poor people. And if poor people become rich and take on a different sense of themselves, they are not stealing rich people's identities.

      Would she still be a "jive-cracker race-baiting two-bit hustler" if she were actually born in Puerto Rico? If what she has been saying and doing is true, what difference does it make where she was born? Louis C.K. was born in Mexico. Does that make him a jive-cracker race-baiting two-bit hustler when he represents himself as a white stand-up comedian (which he is) taking on the culture he experienced after his birth in a different country?

      I think you want to see identity as fixed when it is actually fluid -- in everyone.

      Delete
    17. Somerby perhaps thinks Krug is crazy because she took on a minority identity. He perhaps wonders why anyone would deliberately choose to be a lower status person when being white is the best. He cannot conceive of any culture but his own being desirable so he thinks she did it for money or for academic advancement (even though race is never part of a hiring decision at most universities, especially the elite ones).

      Delete
    18. “ So, Cecelia, apparently mental illness IS nebulous. You disagree with Somerby about Krug. What about his view of Trump? If he’s wrong about these two, perhaps he’s not so good at spotting mental illness as he thinks, which means he may be wrong about the race thing too.”

      mh, as flattering as it is for you to suggest that I should declare the subject of mental illness off limits to Somerby on the basis that since he doesn’t agree with me it’s all fake news, I’m going to pass.

      Such silly reasoning isn’t good for anyone, and the argument is beside the point.

      It’s okay to question a politician’s fitness for office. Corby goes into spasms over this because it’s her job here to assign malevolent and dire motives to Somerby even as she argues that we must leave such analysis to the proper authorities. She then proceeds to tell us what Bob SHOULD be talking about and HOW he should do it.

      That’s bullshit from the ground up and you know it. Don’t ask me to acquiesce to that scam.

      Delete
    19. Corby hasn't written anything here for a long time. Assigning Corby's identity to others is a kind of identity theft too.

      Somerby tells us to watch Fox News, quotes Limbaugh, then calls himself a liberal. That's bullshit!

      From my perspective, Corby tells Somerby why the press can't can't interview psychiatrists in order to examine Trump's mental health.

      I agree with mh that you don't do a good job of summarizing the arguments of other commenters here.

      Delete
    20. Louis CK was not born in Mexico dumb fuck.

      Delete
  9. "Meanwhile, a serious crackpot is being funded by elite institutions as she writes the latest useless book from inside the one percent of the fewer than one percent. "

    And here Somerby display his contempt for knowledge, while lamenting the neglect of black kids! African history is worthless to the kids who were part of an African diaspora?

    There is no requirement that any academic pursuit have an immediate or practical application. That is because a tenet of academic work is that ALL knowledge will be important to someone somewhere in an unpredictable future and that we cannot know which line of inquiry will be important to future generations. But, the more we know about our world and our past, the better we will understand our lives and be able to live in a changing future.

    My favorite example of this is the poor guy who wrote a doctoral dissertation on the aplysia (sea slug) back in the late 1800's. It sat on the shelf unread until it was rediscovered by neuroscientists investigating neural systems. It is perfect for that because it has a simple neural circuitry that can be seen with the naked eye and used to study how neurons communicate to regulate behavior.

    The aplysia was used by Eric Kandel in his discovery of long term potentiation of memories in the brain. Wikipedia says: "Eric Kandel (1964) and associates were some of the first researchers to discover long-term potentiation during their work with sea slug Aplysia. They attempted to apply behavioral conditioning to different cells in the slug’s neural network. Their results showed synaptic strength changes and researchers suggested that this may be due to a basic form of learning occurring within the slug."

    This discovery was made possible by that earlier study of the sea slug that was no doubt considered worthless inquiry by people of that time period.

    There are many other examples of current discoveries that rest on the shoulders of earlier work that seemed to have no practical use to those doing it, beyond curiosity.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "If Trump is the craziness of the right, race is the craziness now being worshiped by our own failing tribe. "

    Somerby makes it sound as if the left just discovered race and racism. Democrats have been supporters of civil rights and have been concerned about differential treatment based on race since the 1960s. Somerby knows the history of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Freedom Riders and of Brown v Board of Education. Somerby knows that Democrats welcomed African Americans and Hispanics and other minorities and have held civil rights as part of their platform for a long time now, not just recently with BLM and their focus on policing.

    So why does he pretend that this is something new?

    Somerby is attacking the foundation of the coalition of voters within the Democratic Party. Why? Is he doing this to further progressive desires to diminish Democrats, or is he supporting conservative efforts to win this election by trying to fragment the coalition at the heart of the Democratic base? His reasons ultimately don't matter, since either way he is doing something destructive and undermining Biden's election chances. By linking the craziness of Trump with the craziness of supporting racial equity, he camouflages his intentions. But there is no similarity between Trump and Democratic attempts at police reform. One hurts the country (Trump) while the other attempts to help all those who come into contact with police, regardless of race. The American people support BLM because they support American values and want the police to live up to their ideals. That isn't crazy.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Trump is a liar and a thief.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The incoherence starts right away:

    “Mental illness is a fairly nebulous concept. Some people even say that it doesn't exist. 

    We can't explain what mental illness "is," but we know what it looks like.”

    It can’t be both nebulous and clear at the same time. Apparently, it isn’t nebulous at all to Somerby.

    And what people say that mental illness doesn’t exist?

    To compare and contrast: Krug’s so-called mental illness led her to become a historian and write historical books at a university. Trump’s led him to seek and win the presidency, where he understood the seriousness of Covid-19, but chose to lie about it.

    And, as far as “race is the craziness now being worshiped by our own failing tribe.”:

    One assumes Somerby believes racists are also mentally ill (?) That is an interesting theory. The concept of race was used to justify slavery, and then Jim Crow. It was an evil idea, but not necessarily insane. Whatever the case may be, its legacy is still with us and ought to be eradicated.

    How Somerby can say that fighting against racism is a sign of mental illness is unfathomable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "fighting against racism"

      Dear dembot, discrimination on account of 'race' is forbidden by law.

      Therefore, if you feel you've been discriminated because of your 'race', then go to court. And that is all the fighting you need to do.

      Delete
    2. Mao,
      I, too, am against gun ownership.

      Delete
  13. "The commander in chief may be "mentally ill," but our upper-end press corps has long been "rationally impaired."

    Both actors act in ways that serve their interests. The dominant American political, economic, and religious views are not based on rationality. Trump and his followers are a part of that group, and so he says and does a lot of stupid, crazy, and hateful things so that he will remain popular with the great mass of Americans who follow the stupid, crazy, and hateful ideology known as American Conservatism. Regarding the elite press, their job is to keep the American people as ignorant as possible so that their bosses (giant corporations) can continue to rule this country with impunity.

    Bob, American reality is quite simple. It's not the great enigma that you make it out to be. Our country is driven by irrational ideologies and behaviors, by ignorance, and by hate because those attitudes allow for the greatest level of profits for greedy individuals and corporations.

    ReplyDelete
  14. If the blog said the same of McCarthy fighting communism would you find that an unfathomable distinction?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aside from the fact that McCarthy was a crackpot and was mostly lying about communist infiltration of the Eisenhower Administration, your analogy makes zero sense.

      If you believe communism is wrong, or a mental illness to use Somerby’s term, then fighting against it can’t be a mental illness, or wrong.

      At least communism as an ideology is debatable. But I can’t imagine that you wish to argue the positive aspects of racism?

      Delete
    2. No, I wish to argue that a fight for a good cause can be badly, destructively, and even criminally waged. That’s not an “unfathomable” concept.

      Evidently, you have more difficulty with that idea than with the notion that Russian perfidy started with Putin.

      Delete
    3. American capitalists have just spent the last 20 years moving American jobs to communist China (because it was even more profitable than Mexico) to increase profits and reduce American wages. Check the label in your shirt, it's probably made in communist Vietnam where American conservatives like yourself proudly and happily went off to die for corporate profits. And now you're all opioid addicted from decades of low wage work-related injuries and big-pharma greed. Still sacrificing yourselves for corporate greed. American conservative martyrdom to corporate greed is perfectly fathomable. Thank you for your service!

      Delete
    4. Cecelia,
      You're two decades late. The United States' reaction to 9/11 already proved that point.

      Delete
    5. Cecelia, what you said sounds reasonable, sort of. But that isn’t what Somerby said.

      He said “race is the craziness now being worshiped by our own failing tribe.”

      Delete
    6. That fact is made clear by your automatic interpretation of his statement as saying that he’s at peace with racism.

      Delete
    7. There you go again, Cecelia, gaslighting. I have never claimed that Somerby is at peace with racism. Do you see why no one wants to talk to you here? I specifically took exception to his idea that believing there are races, which is necessary to fight racism, is a form of mental illness.

      But by the by, can you cite any evidence to the contrary, that he isn’t at peace with it? I do not make any assertions in this regard.

      Delete
    8. mh, you’re arguing two opposed views simultaneously.

      Geneticist will argue that race is a social construct while fully acknowledging that social constructs come about for a reason. We share the same genes, not the same environments. Somerby has devoted years to addressing tribalism and all its adjuncts.

      Along the way we’ve learned about Malia and MLK and protesters who wrote their wills before protests, rather than signs with obscenities. We’ve heard about test scores being the consequence of our brutal past and of the white-knuckled years of teaching in an intercity school, punctuated with occasional victories.

      I don’t why you can’t relax and let him be.

      Delete
    9. Tribalism is a social construct too and it serves the purpose of allowing conservatives to bash liberals.

      Do you mean Malala? Somerby has never described any white-knuckled years punctuated by victories of his own. He has knocked movies about such things and complained that Rhee fudged her numbers, but he doesn't talk about his own teaching or any classroom experiences.

      If Somerby didn't routinely attack liberals, most of us wouldn't bother commenting here.

      A preference for lighter skin is a human universal. Anthropologists argue about whether it is learned or innate (related to health and survival fitness). As educated, intelligent people, we recognize that using skin color to grant privileges is unfair and devote energy to combating what may be part of human nature. All people should have opportunities in life and not be stigmatized by an accident of birth.

      If Somerby had actually been studying anthropology, he would know that and not attribute tribalism to one political party, and not call racism a hoax (as conservatives do) when it is so widespread in our culture and needs to be consciously uprooted in a culture that values fairness.

      While we're at it, I think Somerby has "stolen" a liberal identity that doesn't belong to him because he is committing a fraud on the public every time he refers to "us liberals". Liberal is as liberal does and Somerby behaves like a conservative.

      Delete
    10. Cecelia everything comes "about for a reason". Try to have a discernible point instead of your open carry vapidness.

      Delete
    11. Anonymouse 8:21am, ostensibly you’ve read...a few...blog posts on tribalism at this site.

      It is questionable that you’ve bothered to read them rather than just popping in and singing your cult hymns.

      Delete
    12. Corby, you aren’t the arbiter of the precise coordinates of liberalism any more than I am.

      The same holds true for both us when it comes to conservatism.

      Before you start a 1500 word lecture that is specious and irrelevant to the point of the blogger and his defenders alike, I am not saying that there are no parameters.

      You’d do well to check out TDH archives. You seem to have missed some (too few) blog anecdotes of Bob’s teaching days.

      Delete
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  16. To make this explicit, Somerby, to my knowledge, has not said, at least not recently, that liberals are engaged in a righteous struggle to stamp out racism, but they’re just going about it wrong.

    He says, explicitly today, that believing that there is such a thing as race is a form of mental illness.

    One surmises that all of the discussions involving race, including BLM’s, must proceed from this mental illness.

    The fact that racism exists, which is based on a belief in races, and was a fundamental evil in American history, is presumably also a mental illness. But to fight against this belief requires pointing out the ways in which it manifests itself by disadvantaging different racial groups.

    If you simply ignore race, then the racists will go unchallenged.

    Certainly the goal is to eradicate the idea of race, but that can’t happen as long as substantial racism still exists.

    ReplyDelete
  17. "Newspapers which never cared a whit about race now pretend to care about nothing else."

    Pretending to care is the new black.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pretending to care about the deficit, after the election, is returning to the old playbook.

      Delete
    2. Studies show that black voters, even conservative black voters, vote Democratic mostly because of the racism of Republicans.

      Delete
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