BREAKING: We're watching a species attempt to reason!


It's all anthropology now:
Recently, we made a major announcement:

"It's all anthropology now."

By that, we meant the following:

Especially at times like these, there's no point in trying to offer facts, information or analysis to our floundering species. Especially when our species is in the grip of moral panics, our species will have no use for such proffers.

Our current moral panics mainly involve issues of "race" and gender. All you can do, at a time like this, is observe and describe the way our floundering species behaves—the way we're programmed to act.

Still, we'll try to be helpful:

In the general area of "race," we would advise our floundering species to stop believing in the concept, which is such a prominent part of "the world the slaveholders made." We expect to explore this award-winning idea this year, building from Professor Gates' question last fall:

"What difference does it make?"

In the general area of gender, we compliment the Washington Post for the three letters it ran today. The letters concern a gruesome opinion piece the paper ran in last Sunday's Outlook section—a piece which shows how horrific the "reasoning" gets at times of moral panic and cultural stampede.

Last Sunday's piece was written by Richard Morgan. In hard copy, the Post identified Morgan as "a journalist" and as "a writer in New York." Online, the Post identifies him like this:

"Richard Morgan, a freelance writer in New York, is the author of 'Born in Bedlam,' a memoir."

Morgan's piece concerned the alleged contents of Woody Allen's mind. Whatever a person may think or imagine about the contents of Allen's mind, Morgan's journalism on the topic was just horrifically awful.

It showed the instincts of our species at its most incompetent. According to experts and anthropologists, work this bad only appears at times of moral panic and cultural stampede.

We researched several of Morgan's claims, but we'll link you to the three letters and pretty much leave it at that. As a piece of analysis, Morgan's piece is amazingly bad. The fact that the Post chose to publish the piece is the most striking fact of all.

And by the way, did the Post ever choose to publish the piece! In hard copy, it ate about 80 percent of Outlook's front page. Inside the section, it ate the top two-thirds of page B4.

In short, the Post devoted gigantic space to work which is horrifically poor. According to an assortment of experts, those are the judgments our species makes when panics and stampedes are on.

What is a moral panic? you ask. You're asking a very good question. For today, we'll answer in circular fashion:

A moral panic is a time which gives way to work like Morgan's—to horrible, horrific work about important topics.

For what it'd worth, Morgan's essay wasn't his first for the Post. In June 2015, he penned another lengthy, front-page piece for Outlook. Hard-copy headlines included, that Father's Day essay started off like this:
MORGAN (6/21/15): When 'dad' is a four-letter word/ How Richard Morgan learned to love the idea of fatherhood despite his own awful dad

Not everyone celebrates their father on Father's Day. I recently Googled mine for the first time—to double-check that he was still alive. He was not a good dad; we are not close. He taught me one crucial lesson, though: that fatherhood is not about his way of being a dad.

During a trip to Disney World when I was 13, one night I decided to sleep in my swim trunks at the hotel. I hadn't gotten them wet because I didn't know how to swim (still don't). He scolded me at bedtime, then he yelled at me, then, when I didn't remove the suit, he beat me on my arms and legs. Finally, he stripped me. All in front of my younger siblings and our mom. The youngest, my brother, was 8.

In the dark of that room, naked and bleeding, only the sound of my sobs filled the silence—until I began putting my trunks back on. My father heard the hushed rustles, got out of bed, pulled me up by my hair until he could lift me by my neck and dragged me to the parking lot, throwing me against the car door and telling me to get in. He drove so furiously as he swerved onto the main road that I tried, unsuccessfully, to open the door and roll out. I saw my mother, in tears, chasing after the car and pictured the taillights glaring at her like the taunting eyes of a fleeing demon.

"Bastard," my father muttered. He was enraged that night, as he often was, at me more than my siblings, because I, the firstborn, had made my father a father. I was the proverbial 98-pound weakling, so I hurled words over fists, mostly half-plagiarized takedowns from trashy soaps like "Days of Our Lives" and "Melrose Place."
It sounds like Morgan, and his younger siblings, received some truly horrible parenting. In payment, Post readers have received some truly horrible journalism, on perhaps two occasions.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal?" So sacred Aristotle is widely said to have said.

Despite his alleged brilliance, Aristotle didn't speak any English. Whatever he actually may have meant by whatever it was he actually said, it seems to us that he might have misfired in this instance.

"Man [sic] is the animal which can't fashion an argument?" All over cable, all through the opinion pages, our species seems to be fulfilling that alternate claim at this highly fraught juncture.

Man [sic] seems to have a very hard time with "race" and sex. Especially with topics so fraught, the wiring of our misfiring species just isn't especially strong.

One recent application: It seemed to us that Professor Miles and some audience members were having a fairly hard time handling the concept of "race." (The concept is a large part of the deeply noxious "world the slaveholders made.")

This difficulty seems to be leading them to seek their "identity" in the stories of a small number of people numbered among the honored dead. As they engage in this overwrought search, they and everyone else in our tribe ignore the 48,000, who are found among the living.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal?" Tell that to the 48,000, whose "chances at life" crash and burn as cable stars entertain us with talk about Trump and the porn star.

Was Morgan mistreated as a child? So are the 48,000! They live in a world whose misfiring adults continue to "walk on by."


  1. 'In the general area of "race," we would advise our floundering species to stop believing in the concept, which is such a prominent part of "the world the slaveholders made."'

    And, in other reasonably achievable requests, The Howler urges us all to drop our petty political differences, stop all the violence, end all wars, and just get along.

    I mean, wouldn't it be nice to just go poof! and race as a concept disappears. For better or worse, the "world the slaveholders made" cemented race as a defining factor in our country, and we are still in the painful process of extricating ourselves from its noxious effects. Racism, or "race", didn't magically disappear in 1865, or even 1965, after 300 years of slavery and Jim Crow. And no one should fool themselves into thinking that race isn't a productive issue for the right wing, much as they like to pretend it's only the liberals who engage in identity politics.

    1. If we get rid of race, will anti-Semitism go away?

  2. Somerby urges us to stop thinking about race as a concept, while pointing out the troubling achievement gaps of, ahem, black students in Detroit.

  3. "Man [sic] seems to have a very hard time with "race" and sex."

    Man doesn't have a very hard time with "race" or sex. It's just that western culture appears to be crumbling and collapsing right before our eyes.

    I suppose it might be, perhaps, a blowback from the cold war propaganda, portraying the west as the protagonist in the grotesquely distorted manichaeistic struggle of good and evil. Hey, what goes around comes around.

    1. As usual, 'Mao' follows the prime directive -- defend his Kremlin employers.

  4. "According to experts and anthropologists, work this bad only appears at times of moral panic and cultural stampede."

    Anthropology is an actual field of study, a social science, with its own methods and knowledge base, its own literature. It doesn't say any of the things attributed to it as a rhetorical device by Somerby. Somerby should not be grasping at legitimacy for his dubious claim by attributing it to anthropology.

    Slaveholders didn't invent the concept of race. They didn't even justify their activities by race until after they were attacked by abolitionists. The Bible justifies slavery. Slavery is an ancient practice with no connection to race at all, previous to the US Civil War. Irish enslaved Brits and Brits enslaved the Irish. Greeks were enslaved by Romans. Indian tribes enslaved other Indians captured in battle. The notion that slavery created race as a justification is nonsense because slavery predated race and has existed without using race to justify itself.

    Race was invented with the advent of Darwin's cataloging of species, classified by variations related to their ecological niches. It was nailed down when genetics was described as the mechanism of evolution. The eugenicists and especially folks like Hitler made race the justification for their fantasies of world dominance. Hitler used slave labor and his goal for the world was to use the lower races as slaves to support the higher races. But Hitler didn't invent the concept of race. Darwin did that. And it wasn't based on skin color but on nationality. Hungarians were a race distinct from Italians.

    Concepts of race in the USA are related to African slavery and skin color. It is our national tragedy. But it wasn't invented by slaveholders. Else how do you explain the racial bias against Chinese and Mexicans and Italians and Jews, all of whom were never slaves? Race is our generic excuse to treat some others as lower while maintaining the privilege of an elite. It is not the legacy of slavery. It is the legacy of plutocracy. Try to convince a New Englander that anyone from another part of the USA, regardless of skin color, is his social equal. And this is not anthropology. It is social psychology, social history, and sociology. Somerby.

    1. Whoa, a coherent (albeit pedantical and point-missing) comment. What's happening to the comment section?

      Anyhow, it certainly makes sense to distinguish between the scientific concept of "race", and the sociocultural phenomenon.

      And obviously Bob, being a US-centric creature, is addressing it in a narrow US-centric historical context. So, yeah, anthropology of sorts, why not.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Far fewer women like Woody Allen movies than men. This, despite the supposed contribution of strong roles for women. Women don't resonate with or identify with those "strong" female characters. They are fantasies of what women are like. They are not portrayals of women.

    It is so obvious that Woody Allen is fixated on relationships between older men and very young women, that this scarcely needs an analysis of Allen's papers to support it. It is obvious from the movie Manhattan, which I found shocking when it came out.

    It is far from a slur to call his themes Freudian. His journey through analysis is documented in his films. Interiors was explicitly psychoanalytic. Zelig is about analysis. Somerby betrays his ignorance when he objects to this.

    Woody Allen belongs on the list of abusers in the film industry. He seems to be immune because he was one of the first to be identified, not because of his off-screen abuse, but because of what he put into his films. He is a perv with nothing to say to women and an unsuccessful attempt to make us impulses seem like art. That's a premise no one bought.

    Now Somerby pretends this is a moral panic. As if.

    Men need to stop abusing women, no matter how famous they are, no matter what quid pro quos they can offer (including Oscar opportunities), no matter which political part or office they occupy. Someone like Richard Morgan cannot speak from experience and yet he wants to contribute to this attempt to place men and women on a more equal footing. Calling out Woody Allen is overdue but also pretty low-hanging fruit. But at least he understands that this is an issue worth writing about. Somerby doesn't seem to care what happens to women, in or out of the movies. He is too busy crying for the 48,000. Whatever their test scores, we assume that most of them are not being raped and won't have to suffer sexual abuse to work in whatever jobs they choose. That is something important.

    1. 1:55 Stop acting like a faggot.

    2. Go somewhere else if you want to use that word.

    3. Or dick or whatever.

    4. Pussy. Stop being a pussy. What's your problem? Are you going to be a pussy all your life?

    5. Go take your meds and comment again when you're feeling better.

  6. It's telling that his preoccupation with this issue is so defensive in tone. It's telling that when it comes to his views on race and gender, his persecution complex, and his tendency to repeat ad nauseum seemingly without self-control, he has much in common with Trump. Perhaps a change in registration is in order, Bob.

    Also, given his silence on the latest Chris Matthews news, it shows that even his once laudable focus on the mainstream media's attacks on Gore and Hillary has been compromised and betrayed by his stubborn refusal to recognize the world has changed.

  7. Gates is being disingenuous when he asks why race matters. He is not saying that it doesn't matter and he is not suggesting that it shouldn't matter either. He is calling attention to the salience of race in our society. Somerby means something different than Gates when he refers to Gates' question.

    Race matters because skin color and former condition of slavery are indicators of social status in the USA. Race denotes a subculture with distinct and well-maintained boundaries -- defended by both those within that subculture and those outside it. It is proxy for social standing laden with considerable meaning. That means it matters a great deal to most people.

    Occasionally a beknighted person suggests that they don't see color (like Stephen Colbert's character) or that they are race-blind and treat everyone the same. That provokes controversy from all directions. While our laws should and must be fair and applied without regard to race, nothing else is that way because of the cultural ramifications of race. That's why a white person cannot pretend to be black or mimic black behaviors without risk and a black person who tries to behave as if he were oblivious to black culture is excoriated by other black people. And there is the legacy and continuing existence of racism and mistreatment of people based on their membership in that black subculture.

    So Somerby is either entirely clueless or is trying to stir up trouble when he pretends race doesn't matter. I have been wondering when someone is going to suggest applying Article 25 to Somerby. He is behaving more and more like an idiot and it isn't clear to me why, since I don't know the man and only see his sample of writing over the years. I hope he is getting his yearly checkups.

  8. Somerby talks about means for children's academic performance. Not every child scored at the mean. Some were above, some below. Some of those children will have nice lives and do well, just as they have done well in school. Some will have difficulties, perhaps because of the problems that also affect their schoolwork. Somerby seems to imagine that all of those 48,000 children who are African American are as worthy of crying over as the 80-200 slaves. I believe that all of those slaves had worse lives than the worst of the 48,000 children living today. I believe they are entirely worthy of the tears shed by Dr. Miles. I believe that only a few of the 48,000 children whose test scores are slightly lower than those of Hispanic or white kids, deserve to be cried over. Most will have loving families, job prospects, hopes and dreams that they can achieve with hard work, a chance at life that none of those slaves had. It is ridiculous for Somerby to equate them or to suggest that Dr. Miles should not be crying about mothers and babies separated at birth and similar atrocities. Somerby is being an ass when he assumes that being black means anyone should cry over you.

  9. I saw a clip today of Eric Clapton making unapologetic racist comments. A man who made a fortune stealing from black people. 400 years.
    400 years and it is fault of people of color.
    Shit holes is a mild description of you and your friends.

  10. Bob, look on the bright side. At least this moral panic figures to be a lot less costly than the panic over non-existent weapons of mass destruction. That panic cost us $3.5 trillion, 4,000 dead and 30,000 wounded--all for no purpose but to elect a sociopath who dances and clowns in front of the grieving families of murdered police officers.

  11. This post doesn't make any sense. It sounds like it was written by a malfunctioning artificial intelligence machine.