PERCEIVED RATIONALITY'S END: Eve Fairbanks says she's been hearing things!


1619 Gone Wild:
At times of stress, top experts tell us, our war-inclined species' tribal instincts will often, in fact, go wild.

"It's just the way our species was wired," these future anthropologists despondently say, speaking in the past tense.

Tribal narratives will be imposed on any and all situations, they've glumly told us. Last Sunday morning, we thought of what these scholars have said as we read the Washington Post.

In fairness, the famous paper's Outlook section is strongly inclined to publish a wide array of wonderfully ill-reasoned work. Next week, we plan to get back to the wonderfully ill-reasoned recent essay by "science journalist Richard Panek."

The essay appeared on Sunday, August 5. It was published beneath a wonderfully eye-catching headline:

"Everything you thought you knew about gravity is wrong."

That particular Outlook essay had nothing to do with politics. It had nothing to do with "race."

It had nothing to do with tribal dogma, or with ongoing cultural stress. It was just good old-fashioned balderdash, of the type Outlook seems to love.

If it makes no earthly sense, Outlook is likely to run it! All by itself, this practice on the part of this upper-end platform gives the lie to that ancient claim, at least as conventionally understood:

"Man [sic] is the rational animal."

We're sorry, but that claim never was accurate, or so our top experts have said.

On Sunday mornings at the Washington Post, man [sic] is far from the rational animal! And so it was that last Sunday's Outlook section was fronted by a 3000-word piece by the exiled Eve Fairbanks.

Needless to say, Fairbanks graduated from Yale (class of 2005). Including photographs and artwork, her essay consumed 80% of Outlook's front page, plus roughly half of a two-page spread inside the high-profile section.

Fairbanks' essay is a masterwork of irrational conduct—and, according to major experts, an example of the way our species tends to behave at times of cultural dislocation amid great tribal stress.

Eve Fairbanks has been hearing things—and she hasn't been hearing America singing. Beneath a powerful pair of headlines, her essay starts like this:
FAIRBANKS (9/1/19): The 'reasonable' rebels
Conservatives say we've abandoned reason and civility, writes journalist Eve Fairbanks. The Old South used the same language to defend slavery.

After the El Paso shooting, Ben Shapiro, a popular conservative podcaster, asked Americans to draw a line between the few conservatives who are white supremacists and those who, like him, aren’t. Almost all Americans are “on the same side,” he said, and “we should be mourning together.” In his telling, we aren’t, for “one simple reason: Too many on the political left [are] castigating the character of those who disagree,” lumping conservatives and political nonconformists together with racists and xenophobes.
For what it's worth, we don't think we've ever read anything by Shapiro all the way through.

Fairly or otherwise, we're inclined to think of him as a pseudo-conservative rabble-rouser. Nor does Fairbanks try to describe what the gentleman actually wrote in the piece from which her brief shards of quotation emerge.

That said, Fairbanks describes Shapiro lodging a complaint. He complains that some on the left—"too many," he says—have been lumping conservatives together with racists and xenophobes, apparently in a promiscuous manner.

This alleged lumping has Shapiro annoyed. It's the basis of his complaint.

We have no idea what Shapiro went on to say, or how well he supported his claim, not does Fairbanks attempt to tell us. That said, can anyone doubt that some on the left have tended to engage in the type of conduct Shapiro seems to describe?

Shapiro seems to have said that this occurred in the wake of the El Paso shootings. But having said that, good grief!

As our nation's deep tribalization has spread, this general type of conduct has been rather widespread. During Campaign 2016, Candidate Clinton distinguished herself by her generosity—by giving half of Trump's supporters a pass:
CLINTON (9/9/16): You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? They're racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic—you name it.

And unfortunately, there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people—now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks—they are irredeemable, but thankfully, they are not America.
"You name it," the candidate said, even as she quite memorably did!

In fairness, every candidate makes a dumb and/or unfortunate comment at some point in a campaign. Clinton went on to say that half of Trump's supporters actually weren't racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and Islamophobic, and therefore weren't deplorable and irredeemable, the way the others all were.

That said, her famous statement was quite sweeping. More generally, this type of "lumping" is done within our tribe pretty much all the time, often with no escape hatch of redeemability for anyone found Over There.

Fairbanks could have crafted an interesting study of Shapiro's remark. Is it true that a gang of liberals responded to El Paso by lumping conservatives in with white supremacists in a promiscuous way?

In theory, that could have been interesting. Instead, Fairbanks quickly veered off course, describing "a very specific deja vu" she once fought to identify:
FAIRBANKS (continuing directly): I grew up in a conservative family. The people I talk to most frequently, the people I call when I need help, are conservative. I’m not inclined to paint conservatives as thoughtless bigots. But a few years ago, listening to the voices and arguments of commentators like Shapiro, I began to feel a very specific deja vu I couldn’t initially identify. It felt as if the arguments I was reading were eerily familiar. I found myself Googling lines from articles, especially when I read the rhetoric of a group of people we could call the “reasonable right.”
Fairbanks had been hearing something she couldn't identify. She heard it when she read the rhetoric of "the reasonable right."

Soon, she says, she found herself Googling, possibly in her sleep. As it turns out, a lot of people belong to the group Fairbanks now dubbed, perhaps a bit mockingly, as "the reasonable right."

In our view, some of the people she went on to name are pretty much obvious jerks. On the other hand, some of them plainly aren't.

In her initial listing, Fairbanks even included Jonathan Haidt as part of the reasonable right. Meanwhile, is Sam Harris part of the right at all, reasonable or otherwise? Frankly, we aren't sure.

At any rate, Fairbanks soon provided her reason for lumping these people together. "They typically dislike President Trump," she wrote, "but say they’re being pushed rightward—or driven to defend the rights of conservatives—by intolerance and extremism on the left."

Candidate Clinton had assailed a wide swath of people who supported Candidate Trump. Fairbanks now moved on to a group of people who don't support President Trump—but even that couldn't save this new group of miscreants from the lumping to follow.

As we all know, when cultural revolution starts, absolutely no one is safe! In this instance, the sins of which Fairbanks complained included the sin of being "driven to defend the rights of conservatives"—an incorrectness which, it would seem, is no longer allowed!

Already, Fairbanks has moved us into a very strange realm, except during cultural breakdown. But she took the last path around the bend when she described the "deja vu" which had once been lodged in her head.

What did Fairbanks think she heard when she heard people like Haidt "defending the rights of conservatives?" At long last, she finally got it! This is what she'd heard:
FAIRBANKS: ...I finally figured it out. The reasonable right’s rhetoric is exactly the same as the antebellum rhetoric I’d read so much of. The same exact words. The same exact arguments. Rhetoric, to be precise, in support of the slave-owning South.
Lumping is rarely so bald.

Finally, Fairbanks had it! When Haidt defended the rights of conservatives, his rhetoric was "exactly the same" as that which had been employed, long ago, "in support of the slave-owning South!" All those people who don't support Trump evoke that era for Fairbanks!

By now, Fairbanks had matched Shapiro's charge of "lumping" and moved on to the next level. Had conservatives been lumped with supremacists in the wake of El Paso? We don't know, but she was now lumping people who don't even support Trump with people who once had argued hard in support of the slave-owning South!

Jonathan Haidt and Christine Hoff Sommers were lumped in with this band. In particular, who did their voices remind Fairbanks of? It even came to this!
FAIRBANKS: It might sound strange that America’s proslavery faction styled itself the guardian of freedom and minority rights. And yet it did...

They stressed the importance of logic, “facts,” “truth,” “science” and “nature” much more than Northern rhetoricians did.
They chided their adversaries for being romantic idealists, ignoring the “experience of centuries.” Josiah Nott, a surgeon who laid out the purported science behind black inferiority, held that questions like slavery “should be left open to fair and honest investigation, and made to stand or fall according to the facts.” They claimed that they were the ones who truly had black people’s best interests at heart, thanks to their more realistic understanding of human biology. “No one would be willing to do more for the Negro race than I,” John Wilkes Booth wrote shortly before he assassinated Lincoln. He alleged that any pragmatist could see that freeing black people into a cold, cruel world would actually cause their “annihilation.”
John Wilkes Booth had stressed the importance of logic, facts and truth. And now, members of the reasonable right were stressing the exact same things!

Or something; we invite you to spend some time trying to figure it out. But before she was done, Fairbanks would cite Booth again and his "antebellum reasoning." She was now lumping the most famous villain and crackpot in American history with a wide range of modern writers, connecting them to this assassin in the most far-fetched, distended ways.

For the record, Fairbanks returned to Shapiro before she was done. When she read his recent complaint, this is what she heard, at least inside her head:
FAIRBANKS: In Ben Shapiro—who ascribes right-wing anger to unwise left-wing provocation (“How do you think people are going to react?”)—I hear a letter printed in the Charleston Mercury, which warned that “if the mad career of the hot headed abolitionists should lead to acts of violence on the part of those whom they so vindictively assail, who shall be accountable? Not the South.”
Instead of examining the validity of Shapiro's claims about modern-day provocation, Fairbanks explained what she heard. She actually heard a letter in the Charleston Mercury. When Shapiro made a claim about present-day conduct, that's what our soothsayer "heard."

Fairbanks' endless essay is one of the most unhinged acts of "lumping" ever put into print. But as with Panek, so too here—precisely because the reasoning is so poor, Outlook rushed to print it.

Before she was done, Fairbanks had even fingered the highly suspect Nicholas Kristof. She almost seemed to borrow her format from Brother Foxworthy's famous "You might be a redneck if...:"
FAIRBANKS: If you hear somebody lament, as Bret Stephens does, that political “opinions that were considered reasonable and normal” not too long ago now must be “delivered in whispers,” it might be antebellum reasoning. If somebody says—as Harris has—that our politics are at risk of ignoring common sense, logic or the realities of human biology, it might be antebellum reasoning. If somebody such as Nicholas Kristof says they don’t like noxious thinkers but urges us to give them platforms for the sake of “protecting dissonant and unwelcome voices,” it might be antebellum reasoning.
Kristof might be a redneck too! Everything "might be antebellum reasoning" when tribals like Fairbanks unwind.

This is one of the dumbest, most promiscuous acts of "lumping" we've ever seen in print. Major top anthropologists have come to us with several thoughts:

On the one hand, they've sadly said that our species was always hard-wired for this type of tribal display. "At times of tribal stress and cultural breakdown, this sort of thing always occurred," they have despondently said.

Beyond that, they shocked us with a brilliant insight. "This is The 1619 Project gone wild," they told us late one night, stressing the point that much of that project's work may be insightful and valid.

The identity of our present-day pseudo-liberal tribe is built around race and gender, these top experts explained. Given current levels of tribal stress and cultural dislocation, the tribe is now devoted to discussing our nation's brutal racial history, full and complete total stop.

In such ways, our shaken tribals convince themselves of their ultimate moral grandeur, and of our own as a tribe. At times of stress and dislocation, this is how human tribes act.

When we encourage this kind of behavior, this is how humans will act. Given current stresses, the simplest possible claim or complaint will make many liberals believe that they've heard the voice of John Wilkes Booth! They'll offer such dreams to the Washington Post, and the Post will put them in print.

Reading Kristof, a certain Yale grad thought that she heard John Wilkes Booth! "We've got your 'rational animal' right there," one disconsolate glum scholar said, despondently breaking our hearts.


  1. Actually, Hillary probably understated the number of Trump supporters who are deplorable.

    1. Hillary said "just to be grossly generalistic...", then she generalized, then Somerby and Trump supporters jumped on her for generalizing. That kind of thing is like pretending that a metaphor or simile is literal or assuming a counterfactual is not hypothetical. It violates rules of language. When Trump's campaign did it, everyone knew what they were doing. Somerby does the same thing, and has continued to do it, as if Clinton were not speaking figuratively. That makes Somerby as bad as Trump and the Republicans.

      Why does Somerby join hands with conservatives to malign someone who is no longer running for office, every chance he gets. Republicans do it because any mention of Clinton rallies their base and reminds them of who they are. What is Somerby's motive? Does he perhaps think that maligning our most important female candidate might rub off on the other women running for office? Or is he just once again telling us he is on Trump's side?

      It isn't about truth in journalism, because Clinton herself acknowledged her generalization in those words "just to be grossly generalistic." Somerby is just playing another round of let's kick Clinton.

    2. TDH is kicking Clinton because he thinks her "generalization" was a bad tactic that ended up hurting her campaign. Whether he's right or wrong is a matter of judgment. What his "true motivation" is beyond expressing his beliefs about "tribalism" will be impossible to discern from his blog entries.

      What's your motivation for claiming that TDH is a "conservative"?

  2. During the 1950's, Republicans won elections by calling Democrats "soft on Communism". Democrats responded defensively by trying to show that they weren't Comm-symps. However, after a few years, they turned the accusation around, accusing their accusers of McCarthyism.

    More recently, Democrats won elections by calling their opponents "racists". Republicans responded defensibly by bending over backwards to try to show that they weren't racists. However. Trump has instituted a new approach: counterattack the accusers by calling them some nasty name, like "Pocahontas". IMHO accusations of racism no longer intimidate conservatives.

    P.S. the two-time election of a black President helped to take the sting out of the "racist" accusation.

    1. I agree. Republicans (except for the victimization fetishists) now happily embrace their bigotry.

    2. DinC,
      Republicans wanted to impeach Obama because he ordered a hamburger with Dijon mustard, not that he was black.

      You won't get an argument from me that Republicans are mouth-breathing morons who should be ignored at all times.

    3. @7:43 - Republicans today happily accuse you of "playing the race card." That phrase doesn't have quite the panache of "McCarthyism". We need a better phrase to counter-insult insults like yours. "Race-cardist" doesn't seem to work. I personally favor using the word "racist" to mean someone playing the race card. Then I could call your comment "racist", using its new alternative meaning.

    4. Trump's approach is not new, he is demonstrably racist in his actions going all the way back to his criminal slumlord redlining days in the 70's shortly after faking ankle bone spurs to shirk his patriotic duty to support the US in Vietnam, it is nearly the full extent of the basis for his support, meager though it is - Trump being the least popular president in history.

      Historically Republicans have been effective at playing identity politics, but it is becoming a dead end for them. They now fear their racism being exposed almost as much as they fear class warfare exposing their undying devotion to corporations.

  3. Or just vote Republican. Same difference.

  4. "Think as I think or you're a white supremacist."

    No. It's thinking itself that's intolerable to them.

    As with any cult, it's all about rituals and repeating the mantras. Any thinking - even as loyal and conformist as Bob's - immediately destroys it.

  5. Breaking news!!!!!

    Republicans are racist.

    And it is ok to call them out, indeed it is effective, witness David in Cal's endless consternation over it, doth protest too much, methinks.

    It is a fundamental aspect of their strategy. As top Republican strategist Lee Atwater famously put it, you can't say "nigger nigger nigger" anymore but you can appeal to Republican racism through all kinds of other fun ways that make them vote against their own interest to support corporate interests. Lee was clever.

    Somerby has not a clue on how to win, thankfully his influence, quantified, is zero.

    1. DinC's spurious protestations might carry a little more weight if his party would stop their relentless and ruthless efforts to fuck with the black's vote.

  6. The revelation that an Air Force mission may have helped line the president’s pockets comes days after Vice President Mike Pence was pressed about his decision to stay at Trump’s property in Doonbeg, Ireland, despite its location hundreds of miles away from his meetings in Dublin. The Oversight Committee is also investigating Pence’s stay at the resort.

    Accusations that Trump’s properties are unfairly profiting off of his administration have dogged the president since entering office. Ethics officials and lawmakers have raised concerns about foreign officials staying at Trump hotels, and noted that Trump supporters and industry groups regularly throw bashes at Trump-owned locations. Trump is also considering hosting next year’s Group of Seven gathering of world leaders at his Doral resort in Florida, a potential financial boon for the property, and has previously stayed at the Turnberry property.

    But the potential involvement of the military takes the issue to a different level.

    File this under DRAINING THE SWAMP.
    How do you say "sucker" in Russian, Mr. Dittohead?

  7. Cecelia, when someone thinks like a white supremacist, they are a white supremacist.

  8. "Jonathan Haidt and Christine Hoff Sommers were lumped in with this band. "

    I've known Jonathan Haidt since grad school and he is certainly a conservative. Christine Hoff Sommers is now attacking modern feminism from the right and her arguments are like those of women who have attacked feminism going back to the 70s. She may have been a Democrat once but she is not feminist now and she uses the same tactics that Somerby and Shapiro deplore, mischaracterizing feminism by singling out examples of campus silliness that are not even typical of or widespread on campuses.

    The right has a tactic of grabbing someone who is obviously not liberal and putting conservative words in their mouth while pretending they are coming from the left, a Democrat or liberal person who has seen the light and is exposing the flaws of liberal beliefs.

    Somerby himself is playing this game. David does it when he says his wife is a Democrat or he has black or Jewish relatives and then spouts more conservative garbage as if he were once liberal himself but saw the light and was converted. Remember how he used to say that he marched in Berkeley when he was young but gained wisdom and his now Republican? That Christina Hoff Sommers. Jonathan Haidt was never liberal, never a Democrat. Calling any of these people "reasonable right" makes no sense because there is no reasonable right, if there ever was one.

    This is just another conservative tactic.

  9. Cecelia knows the first rule of Right-wing club is to play the victim.

  10. "may have helped line the president’s pockets"

    And Creepy Joe may have fucked a herd of goats.

    Plenty of things may have happened, my dear dembot.

    I'm glad you're back from the well-deserved holidays. How's Ganesh Chaturthi this year?

  11. Right, Mr. Dittohead - devoted follower of Mr. Rush Limpdick - it didn't happen and you would never approve of such corruption in high office. Tomorrow, when it is proven that it did happen, you will argue that is all perfectly fine. Got it, Boris.

  12. Keep working dembot, keep working. Give your 110.

    That delightful dembot assistant manager job is within your reach.

  13. Anonymices, if "playing the victim" is NOT "hearing" the voice of an antebellum slavery apologist every time someone doesn't harbor your opinion or harbor the mere intensity of your opinion... then nothing is, einsteins.

  14. Hey, Dittohead. I know a chickenshit when I see one, chickenshit.

    You can't say this level of self dealing corruption on the part of your corrupt chickenshit "Acting President" is wrong, so you deny it is fact.

    Classic dittohead trump cultist tactic: It's not true and even if it were true, I'm totally fine with it. Nothing to see here, move along.

    You fucking coward.

  15. Cecelia,
    Your whining about mean old liberals is garbing your message so much, I can barely hear you call them "snowflakes"

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