Sayre's Law visits the New York Times!

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2020

Why we can't have nice things:
Sayre's Law is a mighty law. The leading authority on the dictum explains the holding like this:
Sayre's law states, in a formulation quoted by Charles Philip Issawi: "In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake." By way of corollary, it adds: "That is why academic politics are so bitter."

Sayre's law is named after Wallace Stanley Sayre (1905–1972), U.S. political scientist and professor at Columbia University.
A tightly-stated variant of Sayre's Law is often attributed to Henry Kissinger. As always, the more often you hear a certain claim made, the less likely the claim is true.

We thought of Sayre's Law today as we read the New York Times. More specifically, we read this endless report by Kim Severson—a report about a roiling dispute within an organization no one has ever heard of.

Severson's lengthy report is long, suggestive and murky. You'd think the fate of the world was at stake. The lengthy report starts like this:
SEVERSON (6/230/20): For years, people have been calling for John T. Edge to step down as head of the influential Southern Foodways Alliance.

They say he is a kingmaker. They say he is a white man—however charming—who has too much power over who tells the story of food in a region where so much of the cuisine was created by enslaved people.

For years, Mr. Edge has been listening, and remained in his position at the top.
You can learn real things from the Times! Today, we learned that there is an organization called the Southern Food Alliance, and we learn that it's influential.

A few questions did come to mind. Influential among whom? we wondered. Also, influential concerning what?

We can't say that we were clear about those questions by the time we finished the endless report. Nor were we ever told how Edge got to be head of the SFA to begin with, or why there is no pathway for him to be induced to step down.

We weren't told why the phalanx of whining bougies in Severson's piece can't start their own pointless org somewhere else. Mainly, though, we thought about this:

This is why we can't have real discussions about public schools, or about our lunatic health care spending, or even about what actually happened in Flint.

How did the tyrannical Edge become head of the SFA? Why is there no provision by which he can be replaced?

In best Times fashion, Severson skips these obvious points. Instead, she lards her piece with whining and crying, generally built around insinuations and complaints about unexplained matters of race.

At this time, within the Times hive, this is all the hornets know. The newspaper's hopelessly foppish, Hamptons-based culture feeds on such blather as this.

No real discussion takes place in the Times. But dear God, can they ever fill space!

We had an oddly similar reaction to a very different type of report in this morning's Times.

This second report appeared in the Science Times; it was stunningly erudite. That report started like this:
KORNEI (6/30/20): Chaos and conflict roiled the Mediterranean in the first century B.C. Against a backdrop of famine, disease and the assassinations of Julius Caesar and other political leaders, the Roman Republic collapsed, and the Roman Empire rose in its place. Tumultuous social unrest no doubt contributed to that transition — politics can unhinge a society. But so can something arguably more powerful.

Scientists on Monday announced evidence that a volcanic eruption in the remote Aleutian Islands, 6,000 miles away from the Italian peninsula, contributed to the demise
of the Roman Republic. That eruption—and others before it and since—played a role in changing the course of history.
Yes, that's right. Academics have determined that a major eruption from Okmok, a volcano in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, helped bring the Roman Republic to an end.

The eruption occurred in or around 43 B.C., give or take. Soon thereafter, the republic was on the way out.

These academics today! They've been able to determine that an Alaskan volcano took the Roman republic down. But for twenty months during Campaign 2000, journalists were inventing crazy claims and pretending that one White House candidate had been these claims, and no academic ever stepped forward to note the way this stupid practice might bring our republic down.

Our eggheads know all about Okmok. Our bougies want Edge out.

The New York Times is immersed in such matters; that's how it butters its bread. But when it comes to basic questions about various forces which drive the society, the paper is out to a very late lunch.

Aside from food disputes and ancient eruptions, the Times is a rolling joke. Admittedly, decades of branding make this fact hard for most liberals to spot.

Truly, we can't have nice things. For us, that will always be Poundstone's Law. We heard her state it first!

Meanwhile, as in Sayre's Law, the less at stake, the greater the squabble! To the whiners inside the SFA, we offer some good sound advice:

Full your bougie selves with your best bougie food. Then go jump in some deep Southern lake!

Also this: Parkinson's law of triviality? You'll find it explained right here!


  1. Sayre's Law is a joke, not real. Academic politics are so bitter, not because they concern trivial matters, but because academics tend to be ego-invested in their work. Issues are equally trivial at McDonald's, but no one takes hamburger-making personally.

    1. Take that back!

    2. Glad to know there is still pride on the job!

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  2. "A few questions did come to mind. Influential among whom? we wondered. Also, influential concerning what?"

    If something doesn't matter to Somerby, it apparently doesn't matter to anyone.

  3. "Our bougies want Edge out."

    Is that a vague term for a black person?

    1. No, it's slang for bourgeoisie, so middle class.

    2. That was a joke.

    3. Sorry, it's hard to tell around here.

      I laughed after you explained yourself though.

  4. "“Why don't you have nice things like Aunt Marion?” I asked my mother. “I have little children instead of nice things.” She smiled.
    —Dorothy Allred Solomon, In My Father's House, 1984"

  5. Yay yay yay yay, Somerby made another anti-science jab at professors. They know too much about how volcanoes affected the Romans (no doubt in the context of climate change) and Somerby thinks that's stoopid because it isn't about Al Gore.

  6. “their own pointless org”

    From their website:
    “The Southern Foodways Alliance documents, studies, and explores the diverse food cultures of the changing American South.”

    Their website features articles about Southern black food culture, Cajun food culture, and sustainability, to name a few. It’s based at the University of Mississippi, hardly an east coast elite bastion, and it has a clear interest in the food culture of everyday Southern people.

    Somerby, here channeling Triumph The Insult Comic Dog, doesn’t explain why the SFA is pointless, or why the concerns about diversity and the calls for Edge’s resignation are “bougie.” Wouldn’t the “bougie” thing be to protect the interests of non-diversity and call for no change?

    Wouldn’t it also be “bougie” to dismiss an org like the SFA as “pointless?”

    1. It seems the Times is reaching pretty deep here to advance its obsessive narrative about "race." It seems with this particular, I would say kind of obscure, organization, Mr. Edge, a white male, has been in the top spot for many years, hasn't done that bad a job or committed any racist type wrongs, but many want him out because of his white male status.

    2. @AC/MA
      Somerby had to reach pretty deep here himself to ignore the thousand other articles published today and find an article in the food section about something he has zero interest in.

      It’s also a pretty good bet that most of the articles in the food section aren’t about race/diversity issues, but since this pertained to a food-type story/org, it seemed to fit in the Food section.

      And why his gratuitous swipe at the organization? It seemed like a worthwhile org to me.

    3. AC/MA, it is nice to hear from someone within the organization about the quality of job Mr. Edge has been doing. I assume you do work there, right?

    4. anon 6:31, I read the Times article. that's what it said.

    5. So the ones calling for his ouster are bougies and wrong? Are they “our” bougies? Is Edge a bougie himself, since he works for a “progressive” org?

  7. mmmmmmm...barbecue!

  8. Replies
    1. Our Cecelia is down with barbecue. Go figure.

      I'd have thought you'd be a lutfisk girl.

      But surely, Cece, you've got a watermelon and chitlins witticism for us.

    2. I love chitlins.

      I’ve always regretted that I could only have one.

  9. Here, dear Bob, a real good one:
    Matt Taibbi On "White Fragility"

    He's saying directly what you're hinting at all the time but too scared to spell it out. Scared to get excommunicated and become as deplorable as the rest of us? Sad.

    And by the way, dear AC/DC, he's calling your shitty cult's latest creed - you guessed it! - Hitlerian. So, there.

    I think I actually like 'liberal-hitlerian' better than 'liberal-nazi'. So, 'liberal-hitlerian' it is, from now on. I hope you approve.

  10. Mao, thanks for the link to the Taibbi post. I like Matt Taibbi. I think he is more on the button characterizing DiAngelo as Orwellian, than nazi. Hitler's virulence was sui generis, and look what it led to. I don't think she's at the level of Mein Kampf (though no plan on reading her book, or Mein Kampf either).Maybe you should take to heart something else from Taibbi's post. He notes DiAngelo's Orwellian type Newspeak, "it banishes ambiguity, nuance, and feeling, and structures itself around sterile word pairs like racist and anti-racist, platform and deplatform . . .. Ironically, Donald trump does something similar, only with words like "Amazing" and "Sad." I don't belong to any cult. You seem to be coming at "our" cult as a member of a rival cult.

    1. Heh. Like a real dembot, you're desperately searching everywhere for any sigh of Orange Man Bad. No surprise here.

      There is no "rival cult", dear. Donald Trump was elected by the working people as an act of defiance. And, as I already explained to you, working people (unlike the educated class morons) don't do cults. Obviously, disturbed individuals can be found everywhere, but I really don't see any signs of an organized cult on the other side.

      As for Orwellian and Hitlerian, it's not either-or.

      Your shitty cult's language is Orwellian, and your shitty cult's racism is Hitlerian; here I completely agree with Taibbi.

      Yeah, I like Taibbi too; have been reading him since the 90s, his gig at Sharp and witty. Great sense of humor.

      But of course it doesn't mean I agree with every word he writes. Typing "Amazing" and "Sad" in a hundred-word trolling-tweet is hardly an equivalent of what your intellectuals-dembots do.

    2. Orange Man tried to gaslight a virus, like it was some common corporate-owned media reporter.
      Now Orange Man's criminal negligence has cost a 100,000 lives, the Presidency, and most likely the Senate.
      Oh well, he's always got his Emmy for play-acting as successful businessman on TV.

    3. You're wasting time, dear dembot. Go kneel, ask for forgiveness, and start washing your new Master's feet.

    4. Mao, like I said, I don't have a "cult," a shitty one or otherwise. (By the way, I have worked in factories, unlike I would assume you). There's a wide range of those who don't care for "Orange Man" (who by the way seems to be a "person of color" himself - orange). If they are all in this "shitty" " Dembot cult," that would include me I suppose and also Taibbi. Seems I got under your skin here. Don't be such a snowflake.

    5. "Don't be such a snowflake."

      Ha ha. It's one of the three legs of the Conservative stool. Bigotry and fealty to the Establishment, being the other two.

    6. Taibbi is a hack, a pseudo progressive, an opportunist. Taibbi will often be a mouthpiece for Republican talking points because of his corporate and foreign paymasters and his blind loyalty to Russia (also because Libertarians are just embarrassed Republicans). His article on White Fragility has been excoriated by progressives like Sam Seder and Michael Brooks. DiAngelo's book may have issues, her goals are far superior to Taibbi's. There is nothing charming about racism-deniers.

      For those playing at home, here is a list of people who try to appeal to progressives, while in reality are hack opportunists:

      Jimmy Dore
      Krystal Ball
      Matt Taibbi
      Kyle Kulinski
      Glenn Greenwald
      Aaron Mate
      Sam Harris

  11. Somerby hates science. He does support pseudo science, when he defends Zimmerman, Moore, Trump, Jim Jordan, Ron Johnson and Barr.

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