Part 4—When tribal dogma attacks: The inanity of the New York Times provides a daily anthropology lesson, though only for those who are willing to know who and what we humans are
The "Harari heuristic" lights the way toward what we can expect to find when our species records its deathless insights. According to the professor's now-famous heuristic, we probably shouldn't look for "rational" conduct from our kind.
Instead, we should look for "gossip," and for evidence of the invention and adoption of sweeping group "fictions." So this heuristic now says.
The gossip is offered in today's Washington Post, whose web site pimps a hard-copy front-page report with this deathless grabber:
WASHINGTON POST SYNOPSIS: The Conways, like the rest of the country, have been jolted by the [sic] President Trump. They love each other, exasperate each other and talk behind each other’s backs. Take a look inside the marriage of one of Trump’s most loyal advisers and her husband, an increasingly outspoken critic of the president.A look inside Kellyanne's marriage! So cool! Also, so in line with the potent Harari heuristic!
The Post is providing the gossip. But if it's sheer inanity you want, we'll recommend the New York Times' hard-copy page A3, which features Jason Zinoman's take on a recent claim by Jerry Seinfeld—a claim which "is more radical than it appears, worth mulling over and also, on some level, deeply true."
At some point, the New York Times made a fateful decision. It decided to treat stand-up comedy as an "art form."
Inevitably, this meant that the paper would have to treat practitioners of this art form as "artists."
Personally, we'd recommend avoiding the term "artist" altogether, except in its most literal traditional sense, in which a sculptor is referred to as a "sculptor" and a painter is perhaps called an "artist."
(Under this restrictive regimen, singers would be referred to as "singers." Actors would be referred to as "actors.")
That said, the Times' decision to extend the term "artist" to stand-up comedians has created a wealth of unintentional humor. Zinoman is the fellow they chose to advance this brave new regime.
If you don't have today's hard-copy Times, you can go to Zinoman's Twitter account to ponder Seinfeld's idea, which is more radical than people think and also deeply true. Prepare to think of Harari's heuristic, which tends to undercut the old misstatement about members of our species being "rational animals."
(Seinfeld's radical idea, as quoted by Zinoman: "People assume that when you say something that you believe it. It’s purely comedic invention. You know, I do this whole bit about Pop-Tarts and how much I love them. I don’t love Pop-Tarts. It’s just funny. It’s funny to say it, so I say it." Presumably, you can see what we mean about unintentional humor, and about the obvious relevance of the Harari heuristic.)
The sheer inanity of the Times is a daily anthropology lesson. This afternoon, we'll flesh out the data behind our post about yesterday's op-ed column, the column which advanced a key, if unintelligible, aspect of current tribal dogma, a latter-day form of group fiction.
As our nation slides toward the sea, we liberals have been inventing, and clinging to, new sets of tribal dogma. (They represent our floundering tribe's version of "guns and religion.")
The pain such dogma can produce is joined, in today's New York Times, to a stunning example of the newspaper's world-class, relentless inanity. The pain is found in an alleged letter from an alleged reader who allegedly wrote under the pseudonym "Whitey."
If this alleged person really exists, he or she—we'll go with "she"—didn't write her letter as a "letter to the editor." Instead, she sent her letter to one of the Times' three million advice columns. Specifically, we refer to the column called The Sweet Spot, a weekly column in Thursday Styles written by a pair of clowns who fashion themselves as "the Sugars."
In our view, the Sugars should be ashamed of themselves with every breath they take. For today, though, let's start with "Whitey," the letter writer, who may or may not exist.
If Whitey exists, she's a college student—and a possible victim of new and intense tribal dogmas. In the grip of genuine anguish, she decided to turn to "the Sugars" for help.
Hard-copy headline included, her letter starts like this:
Shedding the Cloak of White Guilt"Dear Sugars!" That's what it actually says!
I’m riddled with shame. White shame. This isn’t helpful to me or to anyone, especially people of color. I feel like there is no “me” outside of my white/upper middle class/cisgender identity. I feel like my literal existence hurts people, like I’m always taking up space that should belong to someone else.
I consider myself an ally. I research proper etiquette, read writers of color, vote in a way that will not harm P.O.C. (and other vulnerable people). I engage in conversations about privilege with other white people. I take courses that will further educate me. I donated to Black Lives Matter. Yet I fear that nothing is enough. Part of my fear comes from the fact that privilege is invisible to itself. What if I’m doing or saying insensitive things without realizing it?
Did some actual person actually write that letter? If so, the writer is a young person—a college student—who needs and deserves some actual help from some actual person, not from a couple of con men like the Sugars.
Her letter continues as shown below. In best advice column style, it's actually signed that way—"Whitey:"
Another part of it is that I’m currently immersed in the whitest environment I’ve ever been in. My family has lived in the same apartment in East Harlem for four generations. Every school I attended, elementary through high school, was minority white, but I’m now attending an elite private college that is 75 percent white. I know who I am, but I realize how people perceive me and this perception feels unfair.If this alleged letter writer really exists, we'd say she deserves some actual help from someone who isn't a pseudo-journalistic clown.
I don’t talk about my feelings because it’s hard to justify doing so while people of color are dying due to systemic racism and making this conversation about me would be again centering whiteness. Yet bottling it up makes me feel an existential anger that I have a hard time channeling since I don’t know my place. Instead of harnessing my privilege for greater good, I’m curled up in a ball of shame. How can I be more than my heritage?
Instead, she's handed large piles of steaming hot cant by the Sugars, who recite aspects of current tribal dogma, a form of "fiction" to which our liberal tribe currently clings.
(You can hear the dogmas recited all day all over anti-Trump cable. Quite routinely, this is done by people who never showed the slightest sign of racial involvement until it became a requirement starting a few years ago.)
If you can stomach their level of self-satisfaction and gross indifference, you can read the advice of the Sugars yourself. But this is a form of tribal cant which the New York Times currently traffics.
The op-ed column in yesterday's Times bowed low to one of our favorite tribal fictions—a fiction in which we pretend that we're invested in the search for racial justice. We've invented an amazing array of dogmas in this general area, which every establishment pundit has skillfully learned to recite.
Does Whitey really exist? If so, she seems to be one of the many people who are suffering under the strain of this sub-rational bit of performance art, in which people announce they belong to the tribe through their recitation of an array of mandated, facile group fictions.
This afternoon, we'll flesh out that topic a bit more fully. For now, you can read the appalling work of a shameless pair of Sugars. Is there anything we rational animals aren't willing to do to get hired by the glorious Times?
Tomorrow: Defending the professor
"Does Whitey really exist? If so, she seems to be one of the many people who are suffering under the strain of this sub-rational bit of performance art, in which people announce they belong to the tribe through their recitation of an array of mandated, facile group fictions."ReplyDelete
Bob, dear. So many fancy words, to describe the liberal zombie death-cult?
The use of gossip and group fictions doesn't mean humans are incapable of reason and logical thinking. Why does Somerby keep saying this?ReplyDelete
"If you can stomach their level of self-satisfaction and gross indifference, you can read the advice of the Sugars yourself. But this is a form of tribal cant which the New York Times currently traffics."ReplyDelete
This is the heart of Somerby's complaint, not the letter from Whitey (which he seems to have some empathy for), yet Somerby doesn't bother telling us what was said. We are just supposed to take his word that it is bad. I'd prefer to make that judgment myself.
I'll bet Somerby is Whitey.
The replies seemed helpful to me. Does Somerby expect the responders to say that the idea of white privilege is bunk and Whitey should just be herself. Whitey says explicitly that he or she is in college, so Somerby doesn't have to guess about that. The extreme self-preoccupation and self-consciousness is typical of adolescence and Whitey will outgrow it. But what is the harm in suggesting that Whitey do good deeds to feel better? That is a finding of recent studies of depression, that depressed people who spend time helping others feel less depressed.Delete
Sorry, but the Sugars' replies make it sound like there IS something shameful about being white. Especially the one who says that they were somehow super-privileged because they grew up with parents who were professionals.Delete
Sounds like a bit of boasting on their part, too! And not that uncommon an upbringing.
Where can I learn the art of rock making?ReplyDelete
Who considers white privilege to be a real thing and who doesn't? Hint: liberals do and conservatives don't. Today Somerby seems to be attacking the "group fiction" of white privilege. In line with conservative, not liberal attitudes and beliefs. I think it is time for Somerby to change his political identification. He may be white, and he is entitled to his beliefs about white identity, but he is definitely not liberal.ReplyDelete
It is kinda funny how liberals always seem to want to make their tribe smaller by excommunicating all of the heretics.Delete
Not really a good way to win elections.
I'd be curious about the history of "privilege". I tried to ask my niece, but I never got an answer. Where was this taught? How did she come to believe it? Although in that conversation I learned that my sister in law, who has the handicap of being my age, firmly believes in male privilege. Well, where did she learn that?
My point, in all this rambling anecdote, is that this tenet of "privilege" has only recently been added to the creed. Those of us without the good fortune to have been born in the 1980s and 1990s were not indoctrinated into this when we were young impressionable children.
So when I first heard about it, I thought it was ridiculous and also insulting. I still believe that today, and probably will tomorrow.
Who else doesn't consider white privilege to be real? Some old people who used to think of themselves as liberal.
The idea of white privilege is taught in sociology courses these days using a demo developed by Peggy McIntosh (1989) involving a backpack. See: https://nationalseedproject.org/white-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsackDelete
I think it is likely your sister-in-law developed the idea of male privilege by encountering it in her daily life. The idea of privilege itself may have arisen from the consciousness raising groups and exercises of the civil rights and women's movements of the 1960s & 70s.
I don't believe you can consider yourself liberal and not consider white privilege to be real because denying the idea of white privilege denies the ideas of racism that are foundational to the civil rights movement, which is a core part of liberal attitudes.
White privilege is the idea that it is easier to be white than black because white people are more likely to be hired, can be served at restaurants and hotels, earn more money, are not subjected to bigotry in everyday life, etc. They live their lives with the expectation of success based on individual effort whereas black people encounter obstacles due to their skin color not their individual merit. The privilege is that of being treated like an individual. It is very hard to think of yourself as a liberal without supporting civil rights, which involves belief in the reality of discrimination based on skin color.
Read through McIntyre's list of questions and see if you still consider it ridiculous and insulting.
"Not really a good way to win elections."Delete
Being the party of global banksters, inciting and exploiting racial and gender animosity is the only way for them to win elections.
If so, viva le privilege!Delete
Being white, on this day of Aretha, I don't feel so privileged. A sense of Privilege depends upon what you're after.
'"Not really a good way to win elections."'Delete
On the other hand, arresting teenage girls for extremism because they had an online chatgroup - along with fixing and election - that'll get you 89% every time.
"People assume that when you say something that you believe it. It’s purely comedic invention."ReplyDelete
Does this apply to TDH?
Depends whether you find him comedic or not.Delete
"We hear from the Head of Timber-Creek in the Jerseys, That a Woman there has lately had Five Children, all born alive, within the space of 11 Months, by two Husbands."ReplyDelete
NY Times? Wash Post? No. The Pennsylvania Gazette, January 25, 1739, published by B Franklin.
The most foppish colonial newspaper, no doubt.
It is understandable that a white teen who has succeeded in getting into a highly competitive college would feel upset at learning about white privilege. It means the game they competed at so successfully is rigged in their favor. It undermines their self-concept as a winner, a highly competent person. They want to win fairly or the winning is meaningless and their victory is empty. This is the anger someone feels when they win a game and then find out their opponent let them win. You work hard only to find out your achievement is worth less because those you defeated didn't have a fair chance.ReplyDelete
So, this isn't about do-gooding. It is about whether the whole foundation of capitalism, competition on a level playing field, is a sham. Of course conservatives are rejecting this concept. They have more at stake than liberals, their self-worth is more involved in believing in equality than liberal self-worth is. Suggesting to Whitey that she find a different basis for her self-worth is the right response -- that's what they said, in so many words.
If she really is from East Harlem, it wasn't rigged in her favor. Certainly not because she was white.Delete
If anything, being from Harlem would tilt the scale in her favor. Most competitive white kids from "privileged" areas would LOVE to have that on their CV.
Harlem has changed since it was the center of black culture in NYC back around the turn of the 20th century. If she were attending a minority school, this wouldn't be her first encounter with the idea of white privilege. That's one of the things that makes her letter sound fake.Delete
Yes, you said it better than me.Delete
She wouldn't have that sense of displacement, that sense of otherness. Living in Harlem as well, she wouldn't think that being white was so special, or a privilege!
The privilege concept and various other tools in the jewish tricks toolbox exist for the purpose of instilling white guilt, thereby leaving white people unwilling and unable to organize against their dispossession. In fact, it makes many of them eager collaborators in their own dispossession. Whitey's a good example of this. Women are particularly vulnerable, because women tend to base their self-esteem on peer approval. That's why you see all this virtue signalling. The fact that this has resulted in insane levels of substance abuse and suicide in white people is a feature, not a bug.ReplyDelete
What would you call Andy Kaufman? Certainly not a stand-up comedian. He seems like more of a performance artist, especially later in his career.ReplyDelete
First Somerby explains that his work involves fiction. Then he denies that it belongs along with other creative fields that involve fiction, such as novelists and poets. Does he consider film an art or is it too recent, too technological? I'll bet there were comedians among those first rock-makers, sitting around their campfires in those caves, admiring their rocks.
From what I've read about the psychology of stand up, most comedians consider that they are providing a service to others by helping them laugh. They consider themselves healers not artists. Maybe Somerby is one of those?
Sometimes a joke is just a joke.Delete
Most often it is. And perhaps should be.
I'm not sure what sort of drugs you're on, but they should probably be illegal.ReplyDelete
Arguably, Jews, Mormons and gay men have white skin and thus are not visibly members of minority groups unless they reveal that fact to others. They can choose whether to be part of the majority or not. The same is not true for blacks.ReplyDelete
David, you are letting your racism show.
"The Prime examples"?ReplyDelete
Surely you jest.
Especially to himself when he pretends he's not a bigot.ReplyDelete
Aretha Franklin was an artist.ReplyDelete
I was tempted to not comment today as I'm listening to Aretha.
Miss Aretha, sing one for me.
Listen to Lucille Bogan dumb faggot. Way better.Delete
Check out the hater comparing apples to oranges.Delete
Anonymous mysteriously ignores Asians and Indians.ReplyDelete
It is rather amusing how jews choose to be jews when they get to claim oppression (which itself is the most laughable thing in the world) and whites when they want to scold white people without being obviously racist. It's so common it birthed the "fellow white people" meme.
No, you're rather amusing, but you're mostly an ignorant clown.ReplyDelete
As for David in Cal, at least he's commenting in the right blog.
AnonymousAugust 16, 2018 at 5:01 PM -- I appreciate your effort to cope seriously with my comment. Your points look reasonable to me, as generalities. But, your points don't support the existence of white privilege. They support the existence of black anti-privilege or black disadvantage.ReplyDelete
The trouble with pleading black disadvantage is that no living white person bears responsibility, so it can't be used to make whites feel guilty.
The privilege is that you don't have to worry about the disadvantages. That's huge. Black people deal with fear/anxiety whenever they do routine things that white people do without thinking.ReplyDelete
Responsibility isn't the point. Guilt strikes me as a ridiculous reaction. I think she is putting the wrong name on her feelings, but who am I to say so. It is a shock to any young person when they first realize that their inner experience isn't what others are feeling too. There is unspeakable evil in human history and as human beings we all share that legacy. It shatters our sense of security to realize that people can do such things to others. Racism falls into that category, along with pussy grabbing and the holocaust, cruelty to immigrant children, terrorist acts and lots of other stuff. I find it more useful to dedicate my life to being a good person than to worry about the many atrocities human beings have committed in the name of humanity. The Sweeties told Whitey to do something akin to that. The point of teaching college kids about white privilege is not to make them feel guilty but to make them conscious of the fact that different people live different lives and we have a duty to lighten each others' burdens.
So we're privileged, and then we're not?ReplyDelete
Quick! Someone get David a fainting couch or some pearls to clutch - only one person is willing to "cope seriously" with his trollism.ReplyDelete
IMHO thew focus on white privilege is a distraction from the real problem faced by blacks. Thinking back to hiring decisions I made. I eagerly hired EJ, a gay young man. I was later told that a large insurer had rejected him because he was gay. My gaydar is weak, so I didn't know that he was gay. but it wouldn't have mattered. All I cared about was his ability to do actuarial work.ReplyDelete
Later my boss told me to hire a "minority" to fill an opening for an experienced actuary. I happily hired JC - a Chinese-American woman. I had also promoted a Japanese-American man to head the Actuarial Dept. But, I never saw a single black applicant. My boss chewed me out for hiring the Asian female. His order to hire a "minority" really meant me to hire a black.
What's my point? What blacks need most, at least in my field, is competent, trained job applicants. Education, not discrimination, not white privilege, ought to be the focus for those of us who care about black advancement.
" ...those of us who care about black advancement."ReplyDelete
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