Starting tomorrow: DOGMA AND TOWN!

MONDAY, MARCH 8, 2021

It appeared in the Washington Post: Major anthropologists with whom we consult continue to make several points.

The highly-credentialed, award-winning experts persist in making these claims:

They continue to say that human populations are strongly inclined to split into "tribes" at times of social conflict. And not only that:

Once these tribes have been formed, ideological war will typically follow, fueled by warring dogmas. 

According to these world-renowned scholars, few "rational" standards will interfere with the expression of these dogmas. Within each tribe, adherence to dogma may even seem to resemble certain types of religious belief.

These anthropologists make one additional point—and they say it's very important:

They say we humans can always see the irrational conduct being performed by the other tribe. They say we have a much harder time seeing the irrational conduct being performed by our own dogma-fueled group.

Most outrageously, these experts say that these basic points obtain in our current circumstance, right here in the U.S. This brings us to Charles Blow's column in today's New York Times—but also to a remarkable column which was published in last Friday's Washington Post.

As always, Blow is outraged today—nor is he fastidious about the way he expresses his outrage. 

Blow's column is geared to an important event—the start of Derek Chauvin's trial in Minneapolis. In the trial, Chauvin will stand charged with second-degree  murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

(According to the Washington Post, the judge may permit "the last-minute addition of a third-degree murder charge." No one reading this morning's Post is likely to have any idea what these technical terms actually mean.)

It's hard to believe that Chauvin will be able to justify his conduct in this matter, but he'll be given the chance. As usual, though, Blow is outraged—and he isn't especially delicate in the way he expresses this feeling. 

For better or worse, his column starts like this:

BLOW (3/8/21): Something happened this [past] summer in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, and maybe only history will be able to fully explain what it was.

Millions of Americans—many of them white—poured into the streets to demand justice and assert that Black Lives Matter. It’s clear now that the summer protests, which took place during a pandemic during which congregation was discouraged, were for some participants less a sincere demand for justice than they were a social outlet.

As some semblance of normal life began to inch back, enthusiasm for the cause among whites quickly grew soft, like a rotting spot on a piece of fruit.

These Whites Today, the ones who poured into the streets! Blow seems to say that, for some of these whites, their demand for justice wasn't all that sincere.

Somewhat indelicately, he compares the current attitudes of these performative whites to "a rotting spot on a piece of fruit." For better or worse, the leading newspaper in Our Town apparently thought that this was an appropriate way to express this morning's key idea.

For the record, nothing Blow describes in his column supports any claim about anyone who took part in last summer's protests. As usual, Blow's sense of outrage has overwhelmed his (substantial) ability to deal with facts—a process we constantly hear described by despondent scholars and experts.

Along the way, Blow discusses the results of an ongoing survey conducted by USA Today and Ipsos—a survey which is quite ham-handed in the possible choices it offers to respondents. Blow hurtles past an obvious point—the changes in attitude which have occurred since the survey was first conducted last June are observed among respondents who are black as well as among those who are white.

Also this:

On the several matters under review, there is much more agreement than disagreement among black and white respondents. This seems to suggest that a significant number of black respondents could also be compared to rotting pieces of fruit!

That Ipsos poll is absurdly ham-handed, but so it tends to go with our highly imperfect species. In our view, Blow's outrage may have outrun his (substantial) rationality—but that is precisely the effect top experts have long described.

These experts say that, at times like these, dogma will flourish in all our towns. They also tell us this:

Here in Our Town, the dogmas around which we tend to form tribal unity tend to involve matters of gender and race.

Here in Our Town, we all can see the crazy ideas which have hardened into dogma for those in The Other Towns:

Obamacare would feature "death panels!" Barack Obama was born in Kenya! The Capitol was invaded by a bunch of left-wingers posing as Trump supporters! November's election was stolen!

No claim is so absurd that it won't be widely believed in Their Towns. But how about the ways we tend to behave Over Here?

This week, we're going to focus on the remarkable column which appeared in the Washington Post. It deals with a very important topic—the shooting deaths of (black) citizens at the hands of police officers.

In our view, it's amazing to think that the Washington Post was willing to publish the column in question.  Commenters quickly spotted the column's remarkable flaws. Perhaps because they were blinded by dogma, editors at the Post did not.

Over There, people have been strongly inclined to believe whatever crazy thing Donald J. Trump just said. Over Here, we tend to believe any claim in which members of Our Town accuse Others of racist or sexist behavior.

We'll agree with Blow on one key point—a whole lot of performative conduct seems to be taking place in matters of this general type. This morning, we think he does a poor job explaining where that conduct can be found.

Here in Our Town, we tend to believe the things we read in the Times and the Post. This raises a key anthropological question:

To what extent are the things we read based on irrational adherence to certain types of dogma—to pre-approved Storyline? Starting tomorrow, we'll examine that question all week.

Tomorrow: As seen in the Washington Post


22 comments:

  1. "They continue to say that human populations are strongly inclined to split into "tribes" at times of social conflict."

    This is bullshit, dear Bob, we're sorry to say.

    There are no tribes. There are humyn beings, who are disillusioned with the liberal establishment, and then there are a few liberal brain-dead zombies, following your liberal cult's orders. Blue-Anon. Your comrades.

    And that's all there is to it, dear Bob.

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  2. World's worst anthropologistMarch 8, 2021 at 3:00 PM

    It's long been my hypothesis that humyn(sic) beings have no tribal instincts. As proof I offer up the whole of humyn (sic) history as proof.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think Blow is describing something real. People have limited amount of time they'll put into something and see no results.

    With protests, you charge at the system, make your demands, and then people move on. He's right that keeping more pressure would probably get more results.

    But it's a good organizers job to know how to keep a steady drip of pressure on the system without needing to take over everyone's day. Unfortunate but true.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. BLM got the jump on people because it was topical. Then there was a backlash. The backlash has had time to make its own case and that has changed a few minds and confused others (note the increase in the 'I don't know' response). This is a long game and not one that depends on momentary poll results.

      This is what progress looks like, not poll results:

      https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/killings-by-police-declined-after-black-lives-matter-protests1/

      Delete
    2. Yeah, and coincidentally, both times it got major traction was in an election year. Totally coincidental.

      Delete
  4. The expert anthropological theory of tribes is based on hunter-gatherers, not political parties. Political writers, most on the right, are responsible for applying that term to liberals and conservatives in our polarized society. Those people are not "experts" and it is wrong for Somerby to confuse the two and imply that someone borrowing jargon and misapplying it for political purpose has any kind of legitimate expertise.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Performative activism is a pejorative term referring to activism done to increase one's social capital rather than because of one's devotion to a cause. It is often associated with surface-level activism, referred to as slacktivism."

    This seems to be the definition Somerby is using, since the other linguistic definition makes no sense, nor does one about actors and the arts.

    To judge the performativity of someone else, Somerby would have to know whether they have an active commitment to a cause, or are just pretending. How can Somerby know this about Blow? How can he determine that a black man does not truly care about civil rights, especially one who has written about civil rights issues many times? It seems so counter-intuitive that Blow would not care about this issue, which must have considerable personal relevance to him, that Somerby must need a great deal of evidence to call him performative.

    Somerby is making an ass of himself. He is, in effect, telling us that Blow, a black man who has grown up in this society, doesn't really give a damn about civil rights, but is just going through the motions and pretending when he writes his columns. As if anyone here would believe that, whether they agree or disagree with Blow!

    And remember, Somerby is the one who insisted, over and over, that we cannot know Donald Trump's mind, and thus cannot judge whether he was lying or deluded! But Somerby has no trouble at all knowing Blow's mind. None whatsoever!

    How can Somerby stand writing such ridiculous nonsense?

    ReplyDelete
  6. People form tribes in order to take collective action to address threats and problems, remove obstacles and create communities. They don't do this under social conflict, they do it to avoid conflict.

    Somerby really should have taken an Anthropology course at Harvard.

    "Tribe, in anthropology, a notional form of human social organization based on a set of smaller groups (known as bands), having temporary or permanent political integration, and defined by traditions of common descent, language, culture, and ideology."

    "As an anthropological term, the word tribe fell out of favour in the latter part of the 20th century. Some anthropologists rejected the term itself, on the grounds that it could not be precisely defined. Others objected to the negative connotations that the word acquired in the colonial context. Scholars of Africa, in particular, felt that it was pejorative as well as inaccurate. Thus, many anthropologists replaced it with the designation ethnic group, usually defined as a group of people with a common ancestry and language, a shared cultural and historical tradition, and an identifiable territory. Ethnic group is a particularly appropriate term within the discussion of modernizing countries, where one’s identity and claims to landownership may depend less on extended kinship ties than on one’s natal village or region of origin."

    Encyclopedia Britannica

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Here in Our Town, we tend to believe the things we read in the Times and the Post."

    We believe these sources because they are "newspapers" created specifically to disseminate information about current events to the public.

    Somerby would have us believe that all news sources are propaganda, but they are not. Somerby, however, is not only spreading propaganda himself, but he is lying about his political intentions. He is the one who should not be trusted.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Charles Blow was on Twitter all day Sunday making the point that the old Warner Brothers toon Peppe Le Pew is the poster skunk for rape culture and subsequently calling everyone who invoked rap music lyrics a racist.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Since you don't seem to understand these things, here is an explanation:

      https://www.hitc.com/en-gb/2021/03/09/why-is-pepe-le-pew-offensive/

      Delete
    2. You know there’s a difference between not understanding an argument and in thinking that a particular line taken is twiddle.

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    3. After watching a couple of Sesame Street characters I chose homosexuality. Then Pepe le pew. I am now an oversexed foul smelling gay Frenchman who thanks to Dr. Suess is racist.

      Delete
  9. It's hard to believe that Chauvin will be able to justify his conduct in this matter, but he'll be given the chance.

    Evidently, you haven't reviewed the body-cam footage of the full incident. Floyd was suffering from a fatal overdose, and was completely out of his mind and manic. He specifically asked to be put on the ground. I'm not a particular fan of the knee-on-neck method to subdue someone in custody, but it is taught to officers as a routine standard, and it was not the cause of Floyd's death (a knee on the side of the neck can neither asphyxiate an individual, nor can it shut off both carotid arteries).

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