Allegedly, Harvard is still very white!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2021

The way we look to Others: How does our infallible tribe occasionally look to The Others? In particular, how do we look to Others with regard to issues concerning gender and race?

Being able to answer such questions isn't always one of our tribe's strongest skills. For today, consider something we read at New York magazine's Intelligencer site.

James D. Walsh was doing the honors, dropping a series of bombs on "the finest schools." The headlines on his interview piece read like this:

Harvard Has Too Much Money to Have So Few Students 
Scott Galloway on elite universities’ unethical obsession with exclusivity and prestige.

At this site, we aren't big fans of the finest schools, but at one point we were struck by something Walsh said. It struck us as an odd thing to say—and we suspect that we may know how this looks to some Others:

WALSH (10/25/21): There are indications that things are changing at elite schools. Harvard, while still very white, is more diverse now than it was. Amherst announced it was dropping its admissions advantage for children of alumni. Are there regulatory fixes that could expedite these changes? Some have suggested requiring schools to spend 8 percent of their endowment annually, or earmarking a set percentage on tuition. 

That was one of the questions Walsh posed to his interview subject. That said, is it true that Harvard is "still very white?" 

Skillfully, we decided to check the demographic stats on the Class of 2025.

Weirdly, Harvard is one of those schools which doesn't acknowledge having admitted any "white" students. Still and all, the famous school does acknowledge such "admission statistics" as these:

A Brief Profile of the Admitted Class of 2025
African-American: 15.9%
Asian American: 25.9%
Hispanic or Latino: 12.5%
Native American: 1.1%
Native Hawaiian: 0.5%

According to those numbers, at least 55.9% of all admissions went to kids who aren't officially "white." At most, that means that 44.1% of all admissions went to kids who are "white."

Do those numbers make you think that Harvard is "still very white?" There is no one correct answer to that, but we'd be inclined to say "no."

Admittedly, that's just one set of numbers. At a second site, we found a breakdown in the demographics of Harvard's undergraduate student body. We're using the categories the site itself used:

Harvard University Undergraduate Racial-Ethnic Diversity Breakdown
White: 37.6%
Asian: 20.9%
International: 12.3%
Hispanic: 11.1%
Black or African American: 8.6%
Multi-Ethnic: 7.5%

This site counts "International" students as a separate (rather large) category. By this site's reckoning, American non-Hispanic whites constitute 37.6% of the undergraduate student body. Limning it a different way, they're slightly more than 40% of all American undergrads.

Looking at numbers like these, does it seem to you that Harvard is "still very white?" There's no perfect way to answer that question, but when we toss off such claims in the way Walsh did, we suspect we know what some of The Others will think:

Some of The Others will think that Harvard is actually bringing in a very diverse student body. 

But so what, some of The Others will think. Nothing will ever be good enough for our grasping progressive tribe.

Some of The Others will think they see unyielding "racial" dogmatics being enacted Over Here in our tribe. That's the way it may seem to some Others.

Do you think that those Others are wrong? Can you squint your eyes in such a way that they may have a germ of a point?


TUESDAY: Do individuals belong to a race (part 2)?

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2021

Improving on yesterday's effort: Despite the many awards it has won, we did a lousy job in yesterday's report.

We were discussing a lengthy profile in Sunday's New York Times magazine. We'd call it a highly permissive celebrity profile about an upcoming film.

We're looking forward to seeing the film. On a journalistic basis, we thought the profile was extremely poor. 

That said, we did a lousy job critiquing the profile. By the time we were done, our basic point was quite unclear.

In part, we did a lousy job because the profile was flawed in so many ways. Today, let's take a quick look at the part of the profile which initially caught our eye.

The profile was written by Alexandra Kleeman. Her subject was Rebecca Hall, a British actress who is about to release her first film as a director.

Hall's film is an adaptation of Nella Larson's 1929 novel, Passing. Below, you see the way Kleeman's profile began, headline included.

Kleeman's summary of the novel instantly caught our eye. In one respect, it struck us as judgmental, possibly just a bit cruel:

KLEEMAN (10/26/21): The Secret Toll of Racial Ambiguity 

When Rebecca Hall read Nella Larsen’s groundbreaking 1929 novel, “Passing,” over a decade ago, she felt an intense, immediate attachment to it. The story seemed to clarify so much that was mysterious about her own identity—the unnameable gaps in her family history that shaped her life in their very absence, the way a sinkhole in the road distorts the path of traffic blocks away.

The novel follows Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, two light-skinned Black women who grew up in the same Chicago neighborhood and shared a friendship complicated by differences in class and social status. When Clare’s father died, she was sent off to live with white relatives, while Irene went on to become firmly ensconced in the vibrant Black artistic and cultural community of 1920s Harlem, wife to a Black doctor and mother to two dark-skinned young boys. One day, while passing for convenience on the rooftop restaurant of a whites-only hotel, Irene is recognized by a beautiful blond woman, who turns out to be Clare—who now not only lives her life as a white woman but is also mother to a white-passing daughter and married to a bigoted man who has no clue about her mixed-race heritage. The friends’ reunion crackles with tension, charged with curiosity, envy and longing.

(Kleeman says that Irene was "passing for convenience" in a restaurant. We assume that means that she was agreeing to be perceived as "white," but only on that one occasion.)

We were struck by Kleeman's summary of the novel. Here's why:

In Kleeman's summary, Irene and Clare are "light-skinned Black women who grew up in the same Chicago neighborhood," presumably during the 1920s (or before). The first possible surprise in the plot would be this:

"When Clare’s father died, she was sent off to live with white relatives."

How many black residents of Chicago at that time had "white relatives" somewherewhite relatives to whose care they could consign their son or daughter? 

That struck us as a surprising plot element. Years later, though, it apparently leads to this:

Clare now "lives her life as a white woman."  She's "married to a bigoted man who has no clue about her mixed-race heritage." 

Also this: Clare is now "mother to a white-passing daughter," whatever that formulation might be taken to mean.

We were struck by some of Kleeman's languageby some of the ideas about "race" her language seems to convey. Let's start with this relatively minor point:

What does it mean when Kleeman says that Clare had a "mixed-race heritage?" We've already been told that Clare is black. What does it mean when we're now told that her "heritage" is "mixed-race?"

That formulation could mean many things. Primarily, we'll guess it means that her bigoted husband doesn't know that her birth family was "black."

That's a fairly minor point. This second point is not:

What can it possibly mean when Kleeman says that Clare's daughter is "white-passing?" Just consider this young person's circumstance:

Presumably, her bigoted father actually is "white." That said, her mother is so light-skinned that everyone believes that she's "white" too. 

Unless someone has told her different, the daughter will naturally have this same impression of her mother. 

(Just for the record, the odds are good that the bulk of this girl's DNA traces back to Europe.)

In what sense, then, can this "dear daughter beneath the sun" be said to be "white-passing?" If we want to score her mother that wayif we want to adorn her with a scarlet Pwhy in the world would we want to score the daughter that way too?

Let's review! This darling daughter appears to be "white." Her father appears to be "white," and her mother does too. As far as we know, no one has ever told her that she's isn't "white."

Why then would someone want to call this daughter "white-passing?" Does Kleeman secretly hold to the one-drop ruleto the age-old rule which scores this dear daughter as "black?" Does Kleeman secretly cling to that rule, perhaps without even realizing?

In fairness, this was just a passing throw-away line from Kleeman. We can't tell you what she meant when she penned that description. We can't tell you if her editor asked her what it meant.

We can say that it caught our eye, in part because of its apparent reflexive judgmentalism. Also, because it may seem to suggest that this young woman really was secretly "black," no matter what anyone says. Or maybe she should have gone around telling everyone she was biracial!

We were struck by that puzzling language in Kleeman's second paragraph. As we continued reading, Kleeman turned to a lengthy discussion of her own life and times, but she mainly profiled Rebecca Hall.

In the course of her highly permissive profile, Kleeman let Hall make an array of statements which don't seem to comport with the published record. Fawning journalists frequently perform such services on behalf of celebrities who have products to sell.

(We look forward to seeing Hall's film.)

Yesterday, we wallowed in the vast array of contradictions Kleeman left unchallenged and unclarified. By the time we were done with our attempt to list them all, it wasn't clear, in any way, what our overall point might have been.

Today, we thought we'd return to the puzzling account which first caught our eye in Kleeman's profile of Hall. It strikes us as a reflexively cruel account, but also perhaps as a tribute to the enduring power of "the world the slaveholders made."

Within the American context, the notion that everyone has (belongs to) a race comes to us from that deeply destructive world. Meanwhile, we progressives today! 

How deeply we progressives believe in the notion of "race!" How deeply we believe in the idea that everybody has a race, and that we are the ones who have been empowered to tell them what their racewhat their "identity"actually is! 

(Within living memory, the liberal project affirmed that there was only one racethe human race. Those days are long, long gone.)

Unfortunately, the concept of "race" lies at the heart of American understandings. It comes to us live and direct from the world the slaveholders made. 

Our vastly self-impressed liberal tribe aggressively clings to the concept of "race" in this brave new dystopia. Our thinking is often extremely jumbled, and sometimes cruel, as we insist on retaining this framework.

The Others can see us doing this. On the whole, it isn't a winning look. Quite often, it isn't especially smart.

We were surprised by what Kleeman wrote. Did her editor ask what she meant?

Where you may have seen Hall: We liked Hall in The Town, a 2010 film with a somewhat rank point of view.  

We're supposed to root for Hall's character to get together with Ben Affleck, who typically murders a couple of people on his way to her house for their dates.

Why would anyone want Hall's unsuspecting character to get together with him? This point just isn't made real clear in the course of the blood-soaked film.  

In fairness, a celebrity was branding himself in that film. It happens every spring. We're asked to accept what we're shown.


MONDAY: Do individuals belong to a race?

MONDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2021

The Times toys with the question: Do individual people belong to a "race?" 

Individuals will be treated as if they belong to a race. But should we even believe in the concept?

Unfortunately, these are among the most important questions in all of American history. The brutal mistreatment of people on the basis of their "race" lies at the heart of our national story. Meanwhile, in the present day, "race" is widely viewed as a fundamental part of each person's "identity."

At one time, within living memory, progressive culture widely proclaimed that there was no such thing as race. It was common for liberals to enter words like "human" or "none" when confronted with government forms asking us to name our "race." 

Progressive culture stressed the idea that we humans are really all the same. Progressive culture stressed the idea that there was only one race, the human race; that "them old dreams [about the existence of race] are only in your head."

Today, progressive culture is deeply invested in the idea that race and gender are the primary building blocks of a person's "identity." Inevitably, a great deal of incoherence is built into these deeply held, frequently noxious, mandated tribal beliefs.

Enter the New York Times—for example, in a lengthy, rather peculiar report in yesterday's Sunday magazine.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our self-impressed liberal tribe is crowded with fuzzy thinkers. Also, with people who may perhaps be just a bit self-involved.

Our journalism is crowded with people who mainly like to tell a good story—who may prefer the pleasures of same to the values of clear exposition. As a tribe, we're spectacularly impressed with ourselves, but also ginormously flawed.

Enter yesterday's puzzling report about Rebecca Hall's mother.  

Rebecca Hall is a British actress and director who is about to release a new film, one we look forward to seeing.  Her mother, Maria Ewing, is one of the most famous singers in the world. She was born and raised in Detroit.

That said, does Maria Ewing belong to a race? And if she does belong to a race, to what race does she belong?

Who the heck is Maria Ewing? You're asking a very good question.

On the one hand, Ewing is one of the greatest singers in the world, and has been for some time. On the other hand, since her career has mainly been in opera, no one in the hinterland has ever heard of her.

Maria Ewing is Rebecca Hall's mother. Here's the basic outline of Ewing's career, according to the leading authority on the topic:

Maria Louise Ewing (born March 27, 1950) is an American opera singer who has sung both soprano and mezzo-soprano roles. She is noted as much for her acting as her singing.

[...]

Ewing made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1976 in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Her first European performance was at La Scala, Milan as Mélisande in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. Her repertoire includes Carmen, Dorabella in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, Salome, the title role in L'incoronazione di Poppea, Marie in Berg's Wozzeck and Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Ewing is particularly well known for her sensitive interpretation of the title role in Richard Strauss's Salome, where Oscar Wilde's stage directions for the original play specify that, at the end of the so-called Dance of the Seven Veils, Salome lies naked at Herod's feet. Ewing appeared fully nude at the end of this sequence, in contrast to other singers who have used body stockings. She also sang and appeared in Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas.

And so on, at some length. Excitingly, Ewing has appeared fully nude at Herod's feet!

At any rate, Ewing has been a major star for a very long time. But what the heck is her race? 

Yesterday, the New York Times played exciting mystery games concerning this topic. On the other hand, as far back as 1992, the Los Angeles Times had managed to tell the public this, as part of an interview with the star concerning a performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion:

ISENBERG (11/8/92): The soprano offstage still seems onstage—dramatically dressed in black jersey and jeans, her dark hair pulled back off her pale face, her full, sensual mouth layered in lipstick. Her exotic features reflect a Dutch mother and a father who was part Sioux, part black and part Scottish.

She was born and raised in Detroit, where her mother sang, and her engineer father played piano, painted, wrote and lectured on the plight of the American Indian. Her father’s piano selections included both ragtime and his own Sioux-inspired compositions, says Ewing, and “we’d all dance around the room when he was playing."

Ewing's mother was Dutch (and presumably "white"). Her father, an engineer, "was part Sioux, part black and part Scottish." 

On the basis of these particulars, how was Ewing treated / viewed / identified within her native Detroit? The 1992 profile didn't explore such questions. But there seemed to be no mystery concerning the fact that the immediate ancestry of this star tracked to more than one "race."

Maria Ewing isn't 100 percent "white!" All the way back in 1992, there seemed to be no giant mystery—and no giant sense of excitement—concerning this particular fact. 

Still, no one had yet forced the star to submit to a public DNA test. Two years earlier, the Washington Post had told its readers this:

MCLELLAN (11/15/90): In private conversation, Ewing, tall and slender, is elegant and quietly self-contained until she begins talking about opera and acting; then her voice becomes animated and she has a deep, earthy laugh...Her exotic good looks (inherited from a Dutch mother and a Sioux father) are even more impressive up close and without makeup than they are when she is onstage. She is 40 years old, looks less than 30, and is totally convincing when she impersonates a spoiled, sensual teenager who dances an elaborate, Oriental striptease to gain power, uses that power to kill the man who rejected her and then scolds and fondles his severed head.

[...]

Ewing became a singer almost by accident. Growing up in a music-loving family, the youngest of four daughters (her father was an engineer, her mother a good singer but not a professional), she studied piano and sang occasional duets with her sister Frances...

In this profile, her father had been Sioux (full stop); he was once again described as an engineer. Concerning Ewing's exotic good looks, she looked even better in person!

Long story short: It seems to have been clear for some time that Ewing's father wasn't exactly "white." To the extent that anyone cared, there doesn't seem to have been any mystery about this.

In terms of "race," how was Ewing classified, identified, treated, viewed within the Detroit of the 1950s and 1960s? We can't answer that question. But as of 1990 and 1992, it was being reported that Ewing's father wasn't "white," and it looks like Ewing herself would have been the source of these revelations.

There doesn't seem to have been any giant mystery about this. Indeed, as of June 2010, Hall was quoted telling The Guardian this about her famous mother:

"She came from working-class Detroit...Her mother was Dutch, her father half Native American Sioux Indian and half black of some unknown origin."

That was Hall, discussing her mother back in 2010.

Yesterday, the New York Times put the mystery back in the stew. Along the way, the famous newspaper skipped past a lot of questions about what it means to belong to a "race"—about what it means when we say that someone does.

Hall's forthcoming movie is an adaptation of  Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, “Passing." As her profile of Hall begins, Alexandra Kleeman starts driving the mystery train:

KLEEMAN (10/24/21): When Rebecca Hall read Nella Larsen’s groundbreaking 1929 novel, “Passing,” over a decade ago, she felt an intense, immediate attachment to it. The story seemed to clarify so much that was mysterious about her own identity—the unnameable gaps in her family history that shaped her life in their very absence, the way a sinkhole in the road distorts the path of traffic blocks away.

So intriguing! There were unnameable gaps in Hall's family history which shaped her life in their very absence. The story in Larsen's novel seemed to clarify so much that was mysterious about her own identity!

That's spectacularly fuzzy writing, suitable for this ghostly time of year. The responsibility for that fuzzy writing lies with Kleeman and her editors, not with Hall herself.

Soon, though, Hall is quoted discussing her family history. We're somewhat puzzled by some of what she says:

KLEEMAN: Raised in England within the elite circles of classical theater, Hall, who is 39, had her first introduction to the concept of racial “passing” in the pages of Larsen’s novel. “I was spending time in America, and I knew that there had been vague, but I mean really vague, talk about my mother’s ethnicity,” Hall explained over the phone this spring. Her voice is calm and poised, with a warm polish to it, and she tends to speak in composed paragraphs. Over the year that we had corresponded, Hall hadn’t been acting much and had instead spent time writing screenplays from the Hudson Valley home that she shares with her daughter and her husband, the actor Morgan Spector. “Sometimes she would intimate that maybe there was African American ancestry, or sometimes she would intimate that there was Indigenous ancestry. But she didn’t really know; it wasn’t available to her.”

Hall grew up steeped in performance: Her father, Sir Peter Hall, was known for founding the Royal Shakespeare Company and serving as the director of the Royal National Theater for many years... Her mother, Maria Ewing, an American raised in Detroit, is one of opera’s most celebrated sopranos, famous for her daring portrayal of Salome in Richard Strauss’s production, in which she followed the Oscar Wilde-penned stage directions to the letter and went nude onstage.

After her parents divorced in 1990, Hall lived for many years with her mother in a manor in the English countryside, where she remembers rooms filled with the sound of jazz on vinyl, her mother making herself at home in the relative isolation and remoteness of an adopted country. “I was sort of brought up to believe that I was this—all of which is true, by the way—privileged, upper-middle-class, sort of bohemian well-educated white girl from a very prestigious family background,” Hall said. “And that was sort of where it stopped. And when I asked questions to my mother about her background in Detroit and her family,” Hall said, her voice low and firm, “she left it with an ‘I don’t want to dwell on the past.’”

In that early passage, the mystery story gets its start, and a certain impression gets lodged. Hall seems to say that her famous mother would sometimes "intimate" that there was African American or Indigenous ancestry. But she also seems to say that her mother "didn't really know."

"I don't want to dwell on the past" was all her mother would say, at least to Hall herself.

Possibly that's true! A more devoted journalist would have asked Hall to clarify this account based on those profiles in the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, in which, or so it seemed, Maria Ewing had made it clear that her father wasn't exactly "white."

Growing up, did Hall know that her mother's father had been described as "part Sioux, part black and part Scottish?" If not, when did she find out?

She certainly knew by 2010, when she spoke to The Guardian. But when did she find out?

In pursuit of basic clarity, an actual journalist would have pushed Hall to speak to these obvious questions. But the New York Times loves to entertain its readers, especially on thrilling matters involving "race."

There followed a jumbled mystery tale about the process by which Hall learned about her "racial" ancestry (also described as her "identity"). Readers were forced to waste some time while Kleeman, inevitably, told us a great deal about herself. Eventually, though, we were returned to Hall's current tale. 

As told by Kleeman, Hall's understanding seems to turn on research recently done for the PBS program Finding Your Roots, including some of the statistical sleight-of hand which commonly dogs that otherwise fascinating program:

KLEEMAN: Hall had recently taken part in Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s PBS series, “Finding Your Roots” (the episode will air next year), and filled in some of the lacunas in her family history that had made elements of her own life feel incomplete or difficult to comprehend. She had shown a version of her film to her mother, sparking conversations that they weren’t able to have in the decades preceding. And “Passing” had been sold to Netflix for almost $17 million, a deal that would guarantee the film the sort of broad audience and promotional support rarely given to intricate, demanding art foregrounding Black women.

[...]

The researchers on “Finding Your Roots,” she told me, traced her mother’s side of the family tree as far back as her great-great-great-great-great-grandparents. She learned that her great-grandfather, whose name was John William Ewing, was born into slavery but found government work post-abolition in Washington, and even gave the toast for Frederick Douglass at a banquet in his honor. Her great-grandmother was a free woman of color, descended from one of only 5,000 Black men who fought on the side of the rebels during the Revolutionary War. But against the background of so much lineage lost and recovered was the discovery of the exact point at which the narrative had broken. “The revelation,” she said, “was that it was just my grandfather who passed—just that one act that erased a huge amount of history, including some stuff that’s really extraordinary.” She spoke carefully, pausing often. “The irony is his father was a race man. His father was someone who wanted to uplift.”

I pointed out how rare it was for a person to have the chance to make a decision that so rapidly shifts the path of his descendants, a complex, psychological decision that erased anyone’s ability to find out why he made it. Hall nodded. “And if you know that it happened, it passes on a legacy that’s”—she trailed off, searching for the right term—“so confused, you know? Because if you’re the child of the parent, and you believe them to be doing the right thing, or hiding something by living in secret, then your obligation to the parent is to do what they do.” When I asked if her mother ever told stories about her own father that might shed light on why he chose to pass, or what his experience was like afterward, she told me that her grandfather was an artist and a musician, and this is part of what made them close—her mother learned to sing from imitating records in the basement of the family house. She left home soon after he died when she was 16, Hall said, gaining admission to the Cleveland Institute of Music against the odds and later moving to the Barbizon Hotel in New York, and eventually to Europe, where she sang in Salzburg, in Milan, in London. 

Hall didn’t know if her grandfather was a sort of anchor for her mother, whether his death caused her to leave home. But her mother did talk, Hall said, about an event that was very disturbing for her...

Had Gates' researchers really "traced her mother’s side of the family tree as far back as her great-great-great-great-great-grandparents?"

Since Hall, like everyone else, has a total of 128 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, we'll guess that Gates actually researched a limited number of these ancestors, while obscuring the fact that there were so many others, with so many other personal histories. 

With respect to "her great-grandfather, whose name was John William Ewing," Hall has eight great-grandparents in all. Four of the eight may be Brit all the way. Two of the eight may be Danish. 

The two American great-grandparents were apparently classified as "black," though they may have had a great deal of European ancestry. (The one-drop rule would perhaps have been in effect.) According to Hall, her mother's father decided to "pass," moving beyond the stupid / cruel types of  "racial" categorization his society dropped on all comers.

(Full disclosure: Earlier this month, Hall was quoted telling The Daily Mail that it was "more than likely" that her grandfather's parents also "passed." The story keeps moving round.)

Does this story mean that Maria Ewing's father was regarded as "white" when Ewing grew up in Detroit? In yesterday's profile, Kleeman doesn't ask, and Hall doesn't say.

Does this mean that Ewing regarded or presented herself as "white" when she was growing up? That question wasn't asked or answered either.

Meanwhile, Hall seemed to insert more drama into the tale with her comments about Ewing leaving home soon after her father died. According to the standard bios, Ewing graduated from Detroit's Finney High School in 1968, when she was 18. Assuming that is accurate, she doesn't seem to have run away the day after her father died.

The story Hall goes on to tell involves Ewing and her father being assailed by a neighbor with a racial slur shortly before his death. Does that mean that Ewing knew about her father's black ancestry when she was growing up?

None of this is clarified. Instead, we get a bit of a pleasingly jumbled mystery tale.

Reading this imitation of journalism, readers are given the impression that Hall became aware of family background due to Finding Your Roots. That would make for a pleasing story, except for the fact that she was quoted saying this back in 2010:

"She came from working-class Detroit...Her mother was Dutch, her father half Native American Sioux Indian and half black of some unknown origin."

How long ago did Hall learn that? Who did she learn it from? Kleeman didn't ask.

Kleeman's profile is a jumble, a pleasingly novelized tale. Elementary questions go unasked as the fuzzy story emerges. Ultimately, this is the fault of Kleeman and her editors.

What does Hall actually know about her mother's early life? What does she actually know about her maternal grandfather's apparent decision to present himself as "white?"

Kleeman didn't try to find out. In the process, we got a pleasing tale, and we got a (thoroughly typical) celebrity-friendly promotion for a film for which Hall has already received $17 million. 

(Nothing the celebrity says will be questioned in the course of such profiles. Because it deals with such important issues, we look forward to seeing the film.)

All through American history, people have been forced to live within the socially defined boundaries of "race." 

People have been told that they belong to a "race," and that they had to stay within its established borders. People were badly and brutally treated, depending on which of those boxes they were said to be in.

People had "race" imposed upon them, often in absurdly arbitrary ways. Our progressive tribe once opposed such mandatory sifting of people. Today, it's the foundation of our frequently unimpressive worldview. 

(Many Others are able to see how unimpressive our worldview is. Only we cannot.)

Do individuals belong to a "race?" Individuals will be treated that way, but should we believe in the concept?

The concept comes from "the world the slaveholders made." Should we keep selling their concepts, or are there better ideas in which we humans are secretly all the same?


The life of Bright Sheng comes full circle!

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2021

The way we look to The Lesser Breed: Bright Sheng is an American composer. The record shows he was born long ago, though perhaps not so far away:

Bright Sheng was born in Shanghai, China on December 6, 1955. His mother had been his first piano teacher, having started learning at the age of four. When the Cultural Revolution began, his home's piano was taken away by the Red Guards. Sheng went back to playing a year later, using his school's since he didn't have one at home. Shortly thereafter, he decided to play piano for the rest of his life, although he didn't believe that he could become a musician since his family had no history of music.

Sheng was sent to Qinghai Province, China, which used to be a part of Tibet, and stayed there for seven years. He became a performer, playing the piano and percussion to not only perform, but to study and collect folk music. He also began to compose his own music.

[...]

After the end of the Cultural Revolution, he got admitted into the Shanghai Conservatory of Music where he learned both Chinese classical and traditional music. There, Sheng earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in music composition.

Sheng left China in 1982 and joined his family in the United States, where he had to re-learn different elements of music to adjust to the Western style of music. In New York, he attended Queens College to earn his Master of Arts degree in 1984 and Columbia University to earn his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 1993...

Today, Sheng is an American citizen, but he grew up in China. He grew up many miles away—during the Cultural Revolution, no less. 

In some ways, he grew up in a vastly different culture. In some ways, it's all the same.

We mention Cheng because of the featured editorial in today's Washington Post. Also, because the recent episode in question helps explain The Way We Looks to The Others—to the famously lesser breed.

The recent episode also helps explains why it's so hard for Democrats to get elected to the Senate and the House. Also, why it's so hard for liberals and progressives—at the present time, for President Biden—to get progressive policies passed.

What happened during the recent episode in question? At the start of their editorial, the editors offer this capsule account, headline included:

A blackface ‘Othello’ and the broken debate over cancel culture

Is it okay for a professor to show his students a movie involving blackface? This complicated question is roiling the University of Michigan—and as is often the case in campus speech debates, the answers from all quarters are too simple.

Composer and educator Bright Sheng began his fall composition seminar by playing the 1965 film of Shakespeare’s “Othello” starring Laurence Olivier in thickly applied dark face paint. What followed was unsurprising to those familiar with the racist history of minstrel entertainment, as well as the present-day tendency toward so-called wokeness in higher education: Upset students complained, including to the composition department. Eventually, though Mr. Sheng had delivered two apologies, the university announced that the professor would no longer teach the class to ensure a “positive learning environment.” A fellow faculty member described the screening as “a racist act, regardless of the professor’s intentions.”

The incident has inspired a fervor among two opposing camps that fits neatly into a national argument. One group believes this is an example of a discourse-destroying cancel culture that poses an existential threat to American academia; the other believes it is an example instead of the marginalized finally empowered to challenge an oppressive institution with a habit of ignoring minority perspectives.

The editorial continues from there. 

For the record, why has Sheng "delivered two apologies" instead of the usual one? The answer is simple. The answer comes from the pile of behaviors sometimes described as "human, all too human." 

Inevitably, Sheng had to issue the second apology to apologize for the shortcomings quickly denounced in the first! In such ways, the history of this child of Cultural Revolution has possibly come full circle.

Sheng is 65 years old. He was born and raised in a different country, in what was (on balance) a vastly different culture from our own.

In the recent episode, he showed a film to his class in which an actor performed in blackface. Apparently, he didn't realize how some students and some assistant, associate and adjunct professors were going to feel about this.

(This may not be totally shocking, given his personal background. This didn't seem to occur, or to matter, to our tribe's outraged savants.)

In the opinion of the Post, the incident has produced a fervor in which "the answers from all quarters are too simple." It has also created a dispute in which pro-Trump forces—in the state of Michigan, let's say—will almost surely be picking up votes.

(Though also, perhaps, in the state of Virginia. Could such a thing matter there?)

Have the forces demanding submission from Sheng really behaved in a way which is "too simple," thereby contributing to "a broken debate?" We'll suggest that you read this news report from The Michigan Daily, in which much of our tribe's progressive reaction is spectacularly lacking in what was once called perspective and nuance, or at least so it seems to us.

Or at least so it seems to us! There is no ultimate way to assess the behaviors involved in this matter, but of one thing there can be little doubt:

These numerous incidents help explain The Way We Look to The Others—to the admittedly lesser breed. Also, these incidents help explain why Biden can't get anything passed, and why he has only 48 votes in the United State Senate, even after four years of The Crazy from Trump.

We had planned to write today about Eric Levitz's heroic act of courtesy and self-restraint at New York magazine's Intelligencer site. In this lengthy essay, Levitz fact-checked an ugly, deeply unintelligent piece in The Nation—and he did so without passing judgment on its author's morals or motives.

The piece in question was truly ugly; it was also flatly stupid. (Full disclosure—the headline on the Levitz piece describes the essay in The Nation as having engaged in a "smear.")

The piece in The Nation does supply an anthropology lesson, or at least disconsolate major scholars have despondently said that it does.

It shows that members of one group of humans will behave exactly like members of other groups of humans when they finally become sufficiently privileged, spoiled, entitled. In the end, we human beings are all just alike, these despairing top experts have said

Levitz was heroic in his restraint. Of the essay at The Nation, we'll only say this:

It helps explain why liberals and progressives are increasingly unable to win seats in the Congress. Also, it helps explain why liberals and progressives are unable to win our nation's political debates. 

It helps explain The Way We Look to Others. In fairness, it may feel good going down.

Back to the Michigan campus:

Our newspapers have been full of such episodes from the finest schools, endlessly including Yale Law. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our massively self-impressed tribe can match The Others dumbness for dumbness, though it will often be holders of advanced degrees who engineer our self-defeats.

Our tribe forced Sheng to apologize twice. Every time he agrees to do so, a Trump voter earns his wings!


CNN has fun with one of Them!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2021

Our own "cable news" in action: On September 1, prominent podcaster Joe Rogan announced that he had Covid.

He also announced what we has doing about it. "We immediately threw the kitchen sink at it," he said by way of Instagram. "All kinds of meds—monoclonal antibodies, ivermectin, Z-pack, prednisone, everything." He mentioned a few other treatments.

As many people have heard, the FDA advises against the use of ivermectin for Covid. On the other hand, ivermectin is used to treat several conditions in human patients, and some doctors continue to prescribe it for use against Covid. 

Rogan has said that he was using ivermectin as prescribed by a doctor. We know of no reason to think that isn't true.

That's the basic story on Rogan. Let's proceed to the story on CNN, as reported by the Washington Post's Eric Wemple:

How did CNN handle this particular matter? According to Wemple, CNN's assembly of jugglers and clowns fell to work putting their thumbs on the scale:

WEMPLE (10/21/21): On Sept. 1, CNN host Erin Burnett said: “Controversial podcast host Joe Rogan, who’s railed against vaccine requirements, says he has covid and took a drug intended for livestock.” She articulated similar descriptions two additional times before interviewing a doctor and noting that the drug is prescribed for people as well.

The same day, CNN host Anderson Cooper said, “One of those drugs he mentioned, ivermectin, is something more often used to deworm horses.” On that same show, CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter said, “When you have a horse deworming medication that’s discouraged by the government that actually causes some people in this crazy environment we’re in to actually want to try it. That’s the upside down where we’re in with figures like Joe Rogan.” Leana S. Wen—also a Post contributing columnist—later added the critical context that the drug “is used in humans for things like parasites and scabies.”

Also that day, host Don Lemon said, “The United States is now averaging 160,455 new covid-19 cases every day, including controversial podcast host Joe Rogan saying that he tested positive for covid and that he says he is taking several medications including a drug meant for deworming livestock.”

On Sept. 3, CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers said, “I think the unfortunate part about all of this is you have individuals like Joe Rogan, for example, who don’t want to take an experimental vaccine but will take horse dewormer.”

And on Sept. 4, anchor Jim Acosta played Rogan’s disclosure video and said, “In case you missed it, Rogan said ivermectin. Yes, that’s the deworming medicine made to kill parasites in farm animals and, weirdly, is being promoted by right-wing media figures and even some politicians as a covid treatment.”

CNN employs an endless array of clowns. That said, your lizard brain is going to tell you that what these "journalists" did was journalistically complete and correct—and there will never be any way to tell your lizard different.

Wemple offers a different assessment. According to Wemple, so did the sane and sober Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent:

WEMPLE (continuing directly): There’s a reason for reciting these transcripts. They turn up a consistent formulation from multiple CNN voices that surely wasn’t a sober recitation of the facts. By highlighting that ivermectin is a horse dewormer, and downplaying that ivermectin has important uses for people, CNN facilitates a certain assumption among its viewers. Namely, that Rogan had been haunting the aisles of Tractor Supply.

After hearing Rogan’s concerns about how CNN cast the issue, Gupta said, “They shouldn’t have said that.”

We agree with Gupta's assessment. As a general matter, we agree with what Wemple says in that passage, though we think his condemnation of this journalistic foolishness could have been stronger and more precise.

Does it matter what these cable "journalists" said about Rogan's case? In the end, it pretty much doesn't. 

Nothing much is going to turn on the way these cable performers sifted the facts about this particular matter. That said, this is the kind of clown-car work which is now quite standard on CNN and MSNBC concerning a wide array of matters both large and small.

Thumbs are typically placed on the scale. Basic facts are routinely sifted for your viewing pleasure.

For the record, The Others can see what our corporate stars are doing when they perform in this manner. This sort of thing very strongly affects The Way We Look to Others.

CNN's stars could have explained the basic facts of this particular matter. Instead, they chose to offer serial snark aimed at one of The Others. They were working directly from script.

In all likelihood, some of those stars may not be sharp enough to know the difference between the actual facts and their more pleasing snark. For some of these players, there's a tendency to fudge the facts in a pleasing direction every time they open their mouths.

Wemple did an excellent job reporting the basic facts. We recall being struck, in real time, by the way this bullroar was going on.

That said, Wemple ends his report as shown below. We're puzzled by the way he describes this famous "cable news" channel:

WEMPLE: CNN’s statement sounds more like the work of an advocacy group than a journalism outfit. The “issue,” actually, begins and ends with the integrity of CNN’s content. If we take Rogan’s prescription claim at face value—and CNN hasn’t challenged it—then the network’s coverage was slanted in some cases and straight-up incorrect in others...

So in this instance, you don’t have to endorse Rogan to abhor CNN’s coverage of this topic. Here’s a network, after all, that prides itself on impeccable factual hygiene, a place where there’s no conceptual hair too fine to split, no political statement too sprawling to flyspeck. It’s tough living by your own standards. If CNN wants to describe ivermectin in a way that doesn’t slime the people who take it, the Guardian provides a fine template: “a drug used against parasites in humans and livestock.”

Say what? Is CNN "a network that prides itself on impeccable factual hygiene?" Is CNN "a place where there’s no conceptual hair too fine to split, no political statement too sprawling to flyspeck?" 

CNN maintains no such journalistic standards. In seeming to make such peculiar claims, Wemple has gone even farther afield than CNN's silly-bills did.

The FDA advises against the use of ivermectin for Covid. On the other hand, ivermectin is used to treat several conditions in human patients, and some doctors continue to prescribe it for use against Covid.

It isn't hard to state such facts, but CNN ceased to be in "the fact business" during the anti-Trump years. As with MSNBC, CNN has long since gone into the snark-and-attitude business. 

Its employees dispense pleasing meds to us blue tribe viewers, hastening defeat as they do. Everyone can see them doing this. This behavior helps explain The Way We Look to Everyone Else.

Your lizard will never let this assessment stand. Are you in control of your lizard today, or does your lizard own you?

Everything doesn't have to be snark. Just try telling that to your lizard!


US AND THEM THE PEOPLE: Matching the Others, dumbness for dumbness!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2021

The lovely shall be choosers: We started the week with a set of claims by an unnamed cable news star.

In fact, that star was Rachel Maddow. Last Wednesday night, she offered pleasing characterizations of a rather large array of citizens who had testified in public meetings in Anchorage, Alaska.

The people in question had appeared before the Anchorage city council ("the Anchorage assembly") to speak in opposition to a proposed mask mandate. Maddow pleasured "us the people" with these remarks about "them:"

MADDOW (10/13/21): So the Anchorage assembly meetings, we watched hours and hours of the streaming footage from those meetings, and the anger and the overt threats not only were sort of surprising and hard to watch, but did seem to build on each other over time. 

[...]

Despite the threats of violence hurled at Anchorage assembly members by the public, despite that intimidation, I should tell you the Anchorage assembly just passed the mask requirement for indoor spaces in Anchorage. Their vote was 9-1.

According to Maddow, she and her staff had watched "hours and hours" of the assembly meetings. For longer excerpts from Maddow's remarks, see Tuesday's report.

"It very quickly got very hairy," the cable star somewhat weirdly said, referring to lengthy public meetings which had, in fact, taken place over the course of quite a few nights. 

That said, she offered us the people our usual bedtime comforts. At several points, she referred to the "overt threats of violence hurled at Anchorage assembly members" by them the people—by The Others, the lesser breed, the people who live Over There.

But how odd! When Maddow aired four examples of these overt threats of violence, her four examples were oddly lacking in explicit threats of violence! Assuming that we might be seeing a replay of a type of tired old con, we watched several hours of the hearings ourselves.

In the several hours of tape we watched, we saw no threats of violence. What we did see may have been worse. The dumbness, the rudeness, the sense of grievance, how hotly and dumbly they burned! 

When we watched several hours of those meetings, we saw an array of American citizens who often seemed to bring little to the table in terms of the skills of productive citizenship. But then again, that's pretty much what we frequently see when we watch The Maddow Show on the corporate "cable news" channel.

No, Virginia! We didn't see overt threats of violence ("intimidation") when we watched several hours of videotape from those Anchorage meetings. Almost surely, that explains why the alleged examples Maddow aired, based upon "hours and hours" of evidence, were such flimsy examples—why they didn't seem to be spilling with such "scary" overt threats.

What we saw may have been worse. All too often, we saw testimonies we would regard as overflowing with a type of unhelpful dumbness. But then, that's what we see when Our Own Rhodes Scholar sells us the car most nights.

Question: Can us the people match them the people, dumbness for dumbness for dumbness? We're prepared to say that we can!

We're prepared to say that we can—and we're willing to say that we do! Having said that, there's one major difference in the serial dumbness our own tribe brings to this war.

Our self-impressed tribe's purveyors of dumbness often hold advanced degrees from Harvard or even from Yale! They've "been to the finest schools," as the poet once put it. Some have even been sold to us as Our Own Rhodes Scholars!

They're pampered and they're lavishly praised. They've been lavished with every advantage.

That said, they reek of entitlement as they lug their useless degrees around. Also, they can match The Others dumbness for dumbness—and they do so each day of the week.

Go ahead—we dare you! Watch several hours of those assembly meetings—and as you do, think about the future of the republic. 

We think you'll see a lot of people whose comments may not make much sense—people whose sense of grievance is often as wide as all outdoors. 

What you won't be seeing the "overt threats of violence" Our Own Rhodes Scholar happily sold us. By the way, is there any way we can hasten the process by which she leaves the air?

The tribal war now roiling the nation pits the eternal Them against the eternal Us. Concerning the rival lineups, consider this:

The figureheads of us the people groan beneath the weight of their advanced degrees. When them the people spoke in Anchorage, a different demographic appeared.

That said, our figureheads can match their lessers dumbness for dumbness for dumbness. And the  dumbnesses emitted by our tribes are perfectly evident to theirs.

Destructively, the dumbnesses our leaders emit help define The Way We Look to Others. If there's a way out of this growing mess, we sure don't know what it is.

Friend, are you able to see the dumbnesses which prevail within our tribe? Tomorrow, we'll discuss the ugly, arrogant dumbness described in yesterday's carefully reasoned essay by Eric Levitz.

In his carefully reasoned essay, Levitz was strikingly polite to our own tribal miscreants. Those people spill with degrees from the finest schools—and yet, they can match the little people dumbness for dumbness for dumbness.

Our dumbnesses fill our tribal newspapers every morning now. According to experts, our human brains are wired in such a way as to keep us from seeing this fact.

The lovely shall be choosers, Frost once intriguingly said. Within our pitiful failing tribe, the lovely show up with advanced degrees from Harvard, from Princeton, from Yale!

Tomorrow: You simply can't get more entitled. Also, you can't get dumber.

To observe the lack of overt threats: Hours and hours of videotape emerged from the Anchorage meetings. In the several hours of tape we watched, we didn't see threats of violence, overt or otherwise, though what we saw may have been worse.

To access those videotapes, just go to YouTube and enter "Anchorage assembly meetings." You may have to fumble around a bit. That's what we so incomparably did.


US AND THEM THE PEOPLE: "I see dead people," the little boy said!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2021

The rest of us see something worse: The Sixth Sense was released (into theaters!) in August 1999. It was a very big hit.

It was the second highest-grossing film of 1999. It received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, along with two acting noms.

That very same month, Gennifer Flowers did a half-hour interview on Hardball. During the session, she told the world about the Clintons' many murders—more precisely, about the disturbing phenomenon she described as "the Clinton body count."

The silent secession—the retreat from sanity—was already underway. 

Chris Matthews told Flowers what a major stone-cold "knockout" she was, sliming Hillary Clinton as he did. We'd show you exactly what he said, except that would force us to let him repeat a widely-repeated claim which was almost certainly false.

Because Flowers' performance was so insane, she was quickly rewarded with a full hour on Hannity & Colmes. Curing that hour, she went substantially further in her ugly, deeply stupid commentary concerning Clinton and Clinton. 

We've never been able to find a single "journalist" who commented on any of this. This is who and what our self-impressed tribe actually was at the time, and it's who and what we've always been. For the record, this was the start of the brain-damaged road which ended up giving us Trump.

Starting that very same month, The Sixth Sense was a very big hit. It turned on a heart-breaking statement made by a terrified little boy:

"I see dead people," the little boy says in the film. The actor, who was 11 years old, received one of those acting noms.

Last week, we watched The Sixth Sense again. With Halloween approaching, it aired on the SyFy Channel and appeared on our free On Demand. 

(Apparently, basic cable isn't able to fill every hour with its endless catalogue of slasher films.) 

We watched The Sixth Sense again. It occurs to us that that little boy isn't like Us and Them the people. 

The little boy kept seeing dead people. As major experts keep telling us, we the humans are strongly inclined to see very bad people—and to see such bad people in groups.

We're wired to see Us, the very good / very smart people, and Them, the very bad, very dumb people. Within this framework, we see very bad people all the time—and they're always found in groups, Over There, where The Others and the otherized dwell.

We're almost completely unable to see how dumb our own tribe is. We can only see the dumbness when it occurs among Them, as it quite massively does.

The little boy kept seeing dead people. Every morning, when we scan our tribe's leading papers, we keep seeing dumb people.

The dumb people we keep seeing are reciting our own tribe's dogmas. Quite often, Cassandra speaks to us at such times, and she tells us there's no way out.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our own highly self-impressed tribe is just relentlessly dumb. We go out of our way to establish that fact, and then we prove it again.

Chris Matthews maintained his lunatic conduct for years back in the day. His episode with Gennifer Flowers was jaw-droppingly stupid and weird. Her love affair with Kathleen Willey was even dumber and worse.

We the blue people—we, the amazingly brilliant people—just sat there and didn't say jack. Them the people are amazingly dumb, but we can match them dumbness for dumbness. We do so every day in the week.

Question!

Can Us and Them the people survive a dumbness-driven regime in which everyone sees very bad people, and sees such people in groups? 

Top experts all say we can't. In a way, Cassandra was able to see dead people too, and she says those experts are right.

Full disclosure: We're avoiding the most interesting thing we read and researched this morning. After all these years, at long last, we no longer see a point.

(It's related to Kevin Drum's reference to VanDerWerff v. Iglesias as seen in this new post. We're not suggesting that there were any "bad people" involved in that striking matter, which of course could never be resolved in any ultimate way.)

In this, a possible week that was, we're finally reaching the point where a living person with an active awareness just pretty much has to give up. In the end, even the Bruce Willis character was forced to abandon his pose.

We humans can be amazingly dumb—and we constantly see bad people. It's the wiring, nothing more,  those despondent top experts have said.


US AND THEM THE PEOPLE: Do we have what it takes to make it through?

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2021

Limitations of us the humans: It rarely happens, but this morning it did:

As we made our early-morning rounds, we saw an establishment journalist actually getting it right!

We refer to the assessment of Colin Powell's legacy offered by Zak Cheney-Rice. In this short essay for New York magazine, Cheney-Rice notes the conflicted way that topic is being explored by a wide range of upper-end players.

The scribe's aim strikes us as true. This almost never happens at this point, as American democracy—such as it is—is widely said to be nearing its end.

"We the People," alas!

It was with those words that a famous document, such as it was, announced itself to the world. The document appeared in 1787. Its preamble started like this:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The statement was authored by "We the People of the United States," such as that congregation was defined at the time.

Today, "we the people" can more accurately be described as "Us and Them the people." Increasingly, we the people have split into a substantial array of disputatious groups. 

The red and blue tribes are the most prominent among these groups, but many subdivisions prevail within those larger congregations. Can a very large nation function this way? 

We'll guess that it maybe cannot.

Increasingly, "we the people" are subdividing into versions of Us and Them. Throw in our species' limited ability to work outside Hard Tribal Viewpoints and the future can start looking grim.

We're going to leave it right there for today. Increasingly, reading the major newspapers of Our Own Remarkably Limited Tribe leaves us unable to speak. 

(It's easy to create a false impression, much harder to take one apart.)

In the end, we the humans may simply be "too dumb to be self-governing!" Long ago, we used that as the title for a periodic radio segment.

Now the irony arrives:

At the time, in the early 1990s, we were offering that as a joke!


Harry and Sally and Dick and Jane!

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2021

When Bret and Gail met Vacuous: It's hard to believe, but it's true. The weekly "Conversation" between Gail Collins and Bret Stephens in now a regular, high-profile weekly feature in print editions of the New York Times.

These "conversations" are about as vapid as mainstream opinion work gets. Each week, an array of topics are discussed and debated for roughly twenty-five seconds each. The insertion of soul-crushing attempts at humor seem to be the weekly feature's distinguishing characteristic.

Today, the Conversation begins with mention of Nicholas Kristof's apparent decision to run for governor of Oregon. From there, readers were frog-marched to this:

Bret: ...Moving from the inspiring to the debased, what do you think the chances are that Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy will ever challenge Donald Trump on his claims of election fraud?

Gail: Well, about the same as my chances of competing in the next Olympics.

Bret: Your chances are better.

Gail: Watching the rally Trump had recently in Iowa, I was sort of fascinated by his apparent inability to focus on anything but the last election. Don’t think a 2020 do-over is at the top of anybody else’s list of priorities.

Bret: It would be nice to think that his obsession with 2020 is solely a function of his personal insecurities. But there’s a strategy involved here, which is hard to describe as anything less than sinister. Within the Republican Party, he’s making the stolen-election fantasy a litmus test, which Republican politicians defy at the peril of either being primaried by a Trump toady or losing vital Trump voters in close elections. At the national level, he’s creating a new “stab-in-the-back myth” to undermine the legitimacy of democracy itself.

That was the full discussion. Is there anyone on the face of the planet who hadn't seen these astoundingly familiar points made perhaps a million times as of six months ago? 

Beyond that, is there anyone who thinks the vapidity of this exchange is justified by the witty initial exchange concerning the chances of "Gail" to compete in the next Olympics? People, we're just asking!

(The participants are identified as "Bret" and "Gail" by the Times itself. In part, this is about the desire, now widespread within the pseudo-discussion business, to give gullible consumers the feeling that they're secretly dealing with friends.)

Within our self-impressed liberal / mainstream / establishment tribe, the dumbness of our upper-end culture is one of its least recognized traits. The Times is branded as our brightest newspaper, and yet subscribers take pleasure in this. 

(Presumably, if this feature wasn't being widely read and responded to, it wouldn't be given such prominence.)

Indeed, the first letter in today's paper refers to last week's Conversation.  "This exchange between Gail Collins and Bret Stephens is what we need so much more of," the appreciative writer says.

Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow, our despairing young analysts cried. 


US AND THEM THE PEOPLE: Them the people, in the far north...

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2021

...as misreported to Us: Way up in the frozen north, miles from The Lower 48, the Anchorage city council—it's called the Anchorage assembly—had been holding public hearings about a proposed mask mandate.

By the admission of one "cable news" star, she and her staff had watched the videotapes of those multiple meetings at substantial length. She described these labors on her highly-rated "cable news" program last Wednesday night:

UNNAMED CABLE NEWS STAR (10/13/21): So the Anchorage assembly meetings, we watched hours and hours of the streaming footage from those meetings, and the anger and the overt threats not only were sort of surprising and hard to watch, but did seem to build on each other over time. 

By her own admission, the cable news star and her devoted staff had watched "hours and hours" of footage. That said, had the public meetings really featured "overt threats" against the eleven assembly members? A bit earlier in her presentation, the star had been a bit more specific:

UNNAMED CABLE NEWS STAR: Despite the threats of violence hurled at Anchorage assembly members by the public, despite that intimidation, I should tell you the Anchorage assembly just passed the mask requirement for indoor spaces in Anchorage. Their vote was 9-1.

That said, tonight as we got on the air, Anchorage's Republican mayor who has repeatedly downplayed the virus, issued a veto against the mask requirement. Republicans from the governor's mansion in Alaska to the state legislature have echoed those sentiments.

And you know, we're used to seeing the politics and fighting over this, but in some ways it is a scary situation. The threats of violence in Alaska aren't an isolated or strange thing. This isn't some strange phenomenon just occurring in Alaska. We are seeing elements of this all across the country.

In that passage, she twice referred to "the threats of violence" directed at the assembly members. 

(For the record, the assembly actually split 9-2 in favor of the mandate. Due to a procedural glitch, one member failed to take part in a "do over" of the original 9-2 vote.)

Up in Alaska, Them the People—The Others—had been directing "overt threats of violence" at the eleven assembly members! The cable star had observed this behavior  because she'd conducted "hours and hours" of research, if she said so herself!

Earlier, the cable star had offered examples of what she meant. We offer you the edited clips exactly as she aired them last week. This is the way her exposé about "them the people" began:

EXALTED CABLE NEWS STAR: Last month, the Anchorage assembly took up a proposed mask rule for indoor public spaces in Anchorage. It was not a surprise this came up. As we've been reporting in recent weeks, Alaska has recently had its hospitals suffering under one of the worst COVID case loads in the nation, with even the largest hospitals in the state forced to ration care and literally turn people away.

So in Anchorage, largest city in the state, the assembly met to consider whether there could be an indoor mask rule in indoor spaces in Anchorage. And the public was invited to come say their piece. It very quickly got pretty hairy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are backing us into a corner. There is nowhere else to go. We will be forced to fight.

You have pushed us against the wall. Please don't do that. Do not incite violence in our city. That's what's happening with this ordinance.

(CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to go up against some people like us? We`re getting our backbone. We're standing tall. We're locking our knees. We're coming after you.

(CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's time to stand up for yourselves, stand up for this country, stop listening to these tyrants.

(CHEERS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How long do you think we`ll take this (EXPLETIVE DELETED)? How long do you think this is going to stand? All across the nation, men are gathering. Will the police be with us? What will the cost of freedom be?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: "We are coming after you." "What will the cost of freedom be?"

This has unfolded over the past week or so in Anchorage, Alaska. Multiple people have been arrested at these increasingly raucous meetings, including one man who was carrying a concealed firearm when he was arrested.

"Multiple people" had been arrested at these public meetings! At this point, we pause to remind you that "multiple," a slippery and very useful term, can sometimes even mean "two."

At any rate, the major star had offered clips of four different people who spoke during the hours and hours of those public meetings. Apparently, these were four of the people who had made the "overt threats of violence" to which the star referred.

Through long experience watching this star, we've learned to be extremely skeptical concerning the things she says. In this instance, we noticed such facts as these:

The cable star had played tape of one (extremely presentable) woman referring to the possibility of future "violence." She'd also played tape in which one man asked a peculiar-sounding though ambiguous question about the future role of the police.

That said, the star had said that she and her staff had watched "hours and hours" of videotape from the meetings in question. It seemed to us that the four short clips she played didn't exactly support the claim that there had been many threats of physical violence during the meetings in question.

If there had been so many "overt threats," why hadn't the cable star aired less ambiguous examples? We decided to do what you always have to do after watching this heralded "cable news" star:

We decided to fact-check the heralded star. We decided to watch the videotape ourselves!

Unsurprisingly, we didn't see a lot of threats of physical violence when we did. In the several hours of tape we watched, we saw no one getting arrested.

In all honesty, we can't say we saw a single "threat of violence." In many ways, what we saw was even more sobering, may have been even worse.

It's hardly surprising to see this particular cable star misleading "us the people." This particular star  tends to play to the base, sometimes ginning us up as she does—and as we've told you down through the years, it isn't clear that the cable star is always obsessively honest when she provides this pleasing service before we all go to bed, sucking our thumbs and reinforced in our belief in our own tribe's moral greatness.

Here on our sprawling campus, we reviewed several hours of videotape from the four or five nights of public hearings to which the star referred. We even found the videotape of the first two edited clips the cable star played last week—the clips from the UNIDENTIIFED FEMALE who overtly referred to "violence," and from the UNIDENTIFIED MALE who heatedly said, "We're coming after you," to the assembly members.

You can watch the full presentations of those two people, starting at 3:11 of this videotape. They appeared, one after the other, at the five-hour October 7 public meeting, but alas:

Though the UNIDENTIFIED MALE was angry, loud and impolite, he wasn't threatening physical violence that night. Instead, he listed the various recall movements he was working on, hoping to remove particular assembly members from office. 

That was the context in which he angrily said, "We're coming after you." The cable star had removed that context when she told us the very good people about the overt threats of violence being offered by them the violent people!

On the Maddow Show, you'll often see such statements clipped in such a way as to let "Us the people"—us the very good people—believe that we're facing ever worse threats from "Them the people"—the very bad human beings reliably found over there—than we actually are. This is a type of slippery game routinely played on that program.

Question:

If the cable star's staff had watched "hours and hours" of videotape; and if the "overt threats of violence" had been so common at those meetings; why did the star have to offer a loud participant in recall movements as one of her four examples? Why didn't she air one of the many other examples in which the overt threats of violence were real?

We think the answer is obvious. Beyond that, we think it involves the ugly way "We the people" get played about "Them the Others" in search of entertainment, tribal certainty and of course corporate profit. 

Our cable stars like to please us in these ancient  ways. When they do, we rush to reward them with high rating and with icon status. 

Having said that, let us also say this:

We watched hours of those videotapes ourselves. We can't say that we saw a single threat of violence, overt or otherwise.

It happened again last Wednesday! Once again, we saw our tribe's greatest "cable news" star playing the old okey-doke with us her trusting admirers. 

In our experience, this particular cable star behaves this way all the time. She even did so again last night regarding the Steele dossier!

Having said that, we'll also say this:

We watched hours of those public meetings, from at least four different nights. And we saw no threats of physical violence, unless you want to count the peculiar remarks made by the (highly presentable) woman who said she had to change her church because of an earlier mandate.

We didn't see overt threats of violence, or any arrests. What we did see was the star's latest con.

That said, what we saw in the frozen north may have been worse than The Threats Which Didn't Bark.  What did we see when we watched the tapes in which long lines of Anchorage residents opposed that mandate?

We'll try to summarize that tomorrow. But what we saw was very sobering in this dangerous hour.

That said, us the people love to fear and loathe them the people. Our imperfect brains are wired this way, despondent top experts all tell us.

Tomorrow: What we did see in those tapes


David Chappelle versus Jonathan Gruden!

MONDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2021

The Way We Look to Others: Long ago and far away, we knew future comedian Dave Chappelle, if only the tiniest tad.

He was still a high school kid performing at open mike night. We were the most gigantic star the Washington area had ever seen. We're fairly sure that our recollections are accurate in these ancient matters. 

Helen Lewis lives across the pond; she writes for The Atlantic. In her latest essay—an essay about Dave's latest "controversial" special—she actually has the nerve to remember and mention this:

LEWIS (10/13/21: Artists tend to be annoyed when critics grade their work on its political content rather than its technical and creative choices, and yet responding to The Closer any other way is hard. The special draws its energy from one of the hottest debates in popular culture, about competing claims to victimhood. Its jokes about LGBTQ people have led to boycott threats, calls to remove the special from Netflix, and even the brief suspension of a transgender Netflix employee who protested the special. In GQ, the writer Saeed Jones declared, “I feel like a fool to have rooted for Dave Chappelle for so long.”

I find myself startled by some of this reaction. I loved Chappelle’s Show, which ran from 2003 to 2006, but here’s a typical punch line from one of its most beloved recurring segments, “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories”: “Bitches, come over here and show Charlie Murphy your titties!” And here’s another: “Bitch, come over here and have sex with Charlie Murphy.” Was this what Jones had been rooting for? Did none of the recent critics of The Closer notice the way Chappelle has always talked about bitches—sorry, women? And yet that tone never stopped me from enjoying his comedy—or acknowledging that his jokes about white women came from his perspective as a Black American man...

We'd actually be less accepting than Lewis—but in her essay, she has the nerve to adopt a nuanced approach. She also has the nerve to mention the types of things Dave has frequently said on the comedy stage, with large numbers of people watching and with young people drinking it down.

On this side of the pond, our own tribe—the Utterly Faux Highly Principled Tribe—has agreed that we must never remember or mention such things. Instead, we'll agree to pretend to be deeply, passionately upset—but also, to be shocked, shocked—about and by the formulations which appeared in Jon Gruden's childish and unfortunate but private and personal emails.

Translation:

One guy is lionized for saying such things out loud in front of millions of people. The other guy is assailed for saying unfortunate things in an undisclosed number of (private) emails, which no one saw until the peeping Toms (as opposed to the Uncles) chose to go nosing around, as we Dimmesdales like to do.

This is the opening chapter in a long-running "story" called The Way We Look to The Others. Will your lizard allow you to see the way our horrible tribe sifts facts and plays these utterly stupid, wholly unprincipled, self-defeating games?

Will your lizard allow you to see that? Because everyone else can see us when we're doing these things, and this helps explain why some of The Others vote for Donald J. Trump.

By the rules our tribe has established, one guy gets to say certain types of things; the other guy does not. Can you see The Way This Looks? Will your lizard allow you to see it?

Fuller dislosure: We don't mean this as a knock at Dave, or as a knock at Gruden. By our lights, it would be better if Dave—and a million other people—hadn't said those types of things, especially in public, and if our tribe, clownishly self-impressed as it is, wasn't so clownishly phony. 

Meanwhile, can you see The Way This Looks to Others? How hard can that possibly be?

Final point: Your lizard will tell you to thrash around in search of some sort of distinction...


STARTING TOMORROW: Us and Them the people!

MONDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2021

What the Russkie said: "No people are uninteresting," Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said.

In fairness, he said it at the start of a poem—at the start of a poem called People. On the other hand, there's no sign, in the whole of the poem, that he meant his comment to be ironic, as Cummings plainly did when he said, "Humanity i love you" at the start of an angry antiwar poem of that name.

"No people are uninteresting," the Soviet-era Russkie wordsmith said. As he continued, he offered additional odd remarks:

And if a man lived in obscurity
making his friends in that obscurity
obscurity is not uninteresting. 
[...] 
In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight.
It goes with him.

There are left books and bridges
and painted canvas and machinery.
Whose fate is to survive.

But what has gone is also not nothing:
by the rule of the game something has gone.

Not people die but worlds die in them

Whom we knew as faulty, the earth’s creatures...

When a person dies, what has gone is not nothing? That's what he actually said! 

He said, No people are uninteresting! Astoundingly, he even said this:

"And if a man lived in obscurity, making his friends in that obscurity, obscurity is not uninteresting."

It may be that the double negatives had the Russkie confused. For ourselves, we'll guess that he actually meant the various things he said!

No people are uninteresting? Today, we're involved in a great tribal war, testing whether that proposition, or any notion dimly like it, can long endure.

It's hard to maintain belief in such notions at the present time. On the one hand, you have The Others, waving their hands in the air, evangelical style, as they rail against a mask mandate way up north, in Alaska.

(For links, come back tomorrow.)

In fairness, these Others didn't behave in the way Rachel told us they did. Of course, being misled by our number one "cable news" star is nothing new for Us.

It's hard to watch those Anchorage voters while maintaining faith in us, the people. We'll discuss their sobering conduct tomorrow. 

That said, it's also hard to watch their counterparts from our own floundering tribe. Somewhat oddly, they arrive with degrees from the finest schools. At present, they're running institutions like the modern-day Yale Law.

When a person dies, what is gone is not nothing? Writing in the wake of the gulag, Yevtushenko was affirming the value of every person on earth. It's hard to maintain such a framework when one surveys today's fields of dreams. 

Often, we humans are appalled by the behaviors observed among people like Them, but are oblivious to the inanities performed by creatures like Us. In the current context, can Our tribe possibly match Theirs, dumbness for dumbness for dumbness? 

It says here that yes, we can!  We'll examine the contest all week

It's sobering to watch The Others in action—but then again, there's Us. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but us-and-them the people barely seem human in these, the short twilight years.

Tomorrow: Night after night, up there


New York City meets Lake Wobegon!

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2021

With Anchorage, Alaska thrown in: In fairness to Garrison Keillor, he meant it as a joke.

It was a joke he created for a well-known radio program broadcast by NPR. The leading authority on the matter offers this overview:

Lake Wobegon is a fictional town created by Garrison Keillor as the setting of the "News from Lake Wobegon" segment of the radio program A Prairie Home Companion...It is described as a small rural town in central Minnesota, and is peopled with fictional characters and places, many of which became familiar to listeners of the broadcast.

Lake Wobegon was a fictional town, peopled with fictional characters. It wasn't an actual place. The joke was part of the monologue with which Keillor started the weekly show:

Keillor's weekly monologue about Lake Wobegon included recurring elements:

The opening words of the monologue usually were "Well, it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, my hometown, out there on the edge of the prairie."

Lake Wobegon was called "the little town that time forgot and the decades cannot improve."

The closing words of the monologue were "That's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."

In fairness, Keillor wasn't claiming that there was an actual town where the children were all above average. He was offering that as a joke, with the point of the joke unexplained.

We thought of Keillor's well-known joke as we read a front-page report in today's New York Times. Headline included, the news report starts like this:

SHAPIRO (10/16/21): Adams Commits, With Few Details, to Keeping Gifted Program in Schools

Eric Adams said on Friday that he would keep New York City’s elementary school gifted and talented program if, as expected, he wins the general election for mayor next month—a clear rebuke to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who recently announced plans to eliminate the program.

“There’s a new mayor next year, that mayor must evaluate how he’s going to deal with the gifted and talented program,” Mr. Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor, said in an interview with CNN. “He can’t get rid of it until next year,” he added of Mr. de Blasio.

Asked directly whether he would eliminate the gifted program, Mr. Adams replied, “no I would not, I would expand the opportunities for accelerated learning.”

In short, Bill de Blasio, the outgoing mayor, recently said that he would scrap  the city's elementary school "gifted and talented" program on his way out the door. He hadn't quite gotten around to doing this, or anything else, during his eight years as mayor.

Eric Adams, the likely incoming mayor, seemed to say that he would maintain the program, and possibly expand it in some undescribed way. We thought og Lake Wobegon when we read this later passage:

SHAPIRO: As to the gifted program, Mr. de Blasio said last week that he wanted to scrap the current system, including an admissions exam for 4-year-olds that has been heavily criticized, and start over with a new one that offers an accelerated education to every elementary school student.

Mr. Adams has yet to release his own plan for the city’s schools, and he has reversed course previously on at least one contentious education issue. But he made it clear on Friday that he was not going to let the outgoing mayor dictate a policy that has major implications for the nation’s largest school system.

De Blasio said that he wants to "offer an accelerated education" to every elementary school student. 

In fairness, it's a pretty thought. When we read that part of today's report, we thought of Lake Wobegon, the fictional town where the children are all above average. 

In actual towns, the various children, as a general matter, really aren't all above average. On its face, the very idea doesn't seem to make sense. That's the fact which served to make Keillor's statement a joke.

That said, so what? To de Blasio, playing hero ball, the children should all be offered "an accelerated education" in New York City's elementary schools.

On its face, that doesn't exactly seem to make sense. When you look at actual data, the notion may seem even less plausible, even perhaps a bit puzzling.

Yesterday, we suggested that the tribunes of our self-impressed tribe should stop making transparently stupid statements every time they speak. Today, we'll supply an add-on:

People like de Blasio should stop announcing to the world that they don't have the slightest idea about the interests and needs of kids in our low-income schools. They should stop the hero ball and the showboating. They should stop pretending to care.

Should every child in New York City receive "an accelerated education?" As noted, it's a pretty idea. but here are some actual data:

Scale scores, New York City Public Schools
All students, Grade 4 math, 2019 Naep
90th percentile: 276.06
75th percentile: 255.49
50th percentile: 231.73
25th percentile: 207.40
10th percentile: 184.36

In Grade 4 math, are the children all above average in the New York City schools? Just for a moment, let's madden ourselves with the boredom of a trip to the actual world:

In 2019, the average public school student in the United States scored 241.60 on the Naep's Grade 4 math test. (The Naep is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the federally-administered "gold standard" of domestic educational testing. For all Naep data, start here.)

The average fourth grader in New York City scored ten points lower than that. According to a very rough rule of thumb which is often applied to Naep scores, that would mean that the average New York City kid was one year behind his nationwide counterparts at this point in time.

That's a very rough comparison, but let's move on from there. According to the federal data, ten percent of New York City kids scored at 184.36 or below. 

(Nationwide, the corresponding score was 198.19. Gotham's tenth percentile child scored well below his counterpart nationwide.)

That seems to mean that ten percent of New York City's kids weren't performing anywhere near the national average on this measure of Grade 4 math. De Blasio has sat on his ascot with respect to this matter for the past eight years, but as he galavants out of office, he has now announced that even kids who are struggling in school to this extent should he "offered an accelerated education."

There's no way to have sufficient contempt for a tribal figurehead like this. There's no way to have sufficient contempt for the self-impressed tribe which has ignored the needs of those struggling kids since at least the 1960s, fluffing ourselves as we go.

The tribe in question is our own blue tribe, and our own blue tribe is routinely heinous. Our own blue tribe is dumb as a rock. Beyond that, we don't actually care.

It's hard to have sufficient contempt for what we read in today's front-page report. Having said that, we'll add this:

Yesterday, we spent a lot of time  watching citizens in Anchorage, Alaska appear before the Anchorage city council to testify against a proposed mask mandate.

As a general matter, those people seemed to belong to the other, red tribe. We'd call that videotape sobering.

(We'd also note that the videotape didn't show what Rachel Maddow said it did in her latest bit of tribal propaganda / pandering.)

You have that sobering videotape from Anchorage—but then too, you have our own blue tribe. It's hard to have sufficient contempt for the way de Blasio has behaved, but our own blue tribe is so plainly uncaring, and so dumb, that this sort of thing has been the norm for decades.

After sitting on his ascot for eight years, Mayor de Blasio made a pleasing statement last week. On its face, his statement doesn't seem to make sense, but it's par for the course from our tribe—and everyone can see this but us.

How should New York City organize its schools? That's a daunting question. There's no easy answer to that.

That said, we've offered a tiny selection of data today. Our own blue tribe, so full of self-admiration, is  rarely willing to bore itself with information like that. 

(You will never see data like those in the Times. Those struggling children don't even exist on our tribe's two cable channels, where they talk about no one but Trump and how we'll soon have him locked up.)

Garrison Keillor meant it as a joke! Our own blue true, so full of self-regard, may perhaps have been too dumb (and too transparently uncaring) to understand this fact.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Those meetings in Anchorage were a sobering mess—but here within our own blue towns, can we be said to be sharper?

Once more for the road: The average fourth grader, nationwide, scored 241.60 on the Naep math test. Ten percent of New York City's kids scored 184 or below.

Those numbers seem to describe a truly gigantic "achievement gap"—a gap which is hard to quantify in colloquial terms. Within our tribe, we're so dumb, and so uncaring, that we're inclined to think that those struggling kids need "an accelerated education."

To us, that story feels good and it makes perfect sense. Everyone else is able to see what this seems to mean about us.

That tape from Anchorage is sobering. Then again, what about us?


RUNNING ON TRIBAL: Our tribe should stop demonizing The Others...

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2021

...and should stop peddling The Stupid: One week ago, the column in question made a fairly obvious point.

According to the column in question, Americans should stop with the "sweeping generalizations" about members of various groups. 

(For example, about such groups as "white women.")

And not only that! According to the column in question, we Americans should avoid creating "a society with rampant dehumanization, where people are barraged with crude stereotypes that are increasingly detached from the complexities of reality and make them feel unseen as individuals." 

We should avoid those crude stereotypes, along with the rampant dehumanization those stereotypes engender. That's what the column said!

According to the column in question, we tend to create a society like the one described when we engage in those "sweeping generalizations" about those various groups—but especially, about groups to which we don't belong, about groups we may even disfavor.

We shouldn't engage in "crude stereotypes" about members of various groups! You'd think this would be an obvious suggestion—but if you did, you'd be wrong.

The column in question appeared in the New York Times. After reading the column in question, we wondered ig the paper's readers would be able to tolerate thess fairly obvious suggestions.

We clicked on comments, and started to read. At that time, the third and the tenth comments went exactly like this:

COMMENTER FROM CS: I'm a lifelong Democrat, in my late 60's. Taking my political party as a group, I am proud to identify myself as a member. My group believes in equal rights and opportunities for all people, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. My group believes in science and understands the existential threat posed by climate change. My group believes in a strong social safety net that will provide health care to all of our citizens. My group understands the importance of knowledge and learning, and supports affordable higher education for all of us.

The other group? Trumpists? (There are no more true Republicans). Well, their group believes in white nationalism. Their group believes that their extreme view of Christianity should be the law of the land for all of us. Their group disdains education and sneers at those of us who have college degrees as "elitists." Their group believes that "rights" mean they are entitled to do literally anything they want, regardless of the harm they cause others—as is evidenced by their behavior during a once in a century pandemic.

I'm proud to align myself with my political group, as it strives to help all Americans. Those folks in the other group, however, ought to be ashamed of themselves.

COMMENTER FROM COLORADO: Oh, please. I recall the days after the November 2020 election when our NPR station hosted "breaking bread"  chats for Biden and Trump voters. Biden voters would say "I learned a lot about their issues" while Trump voters would say "I think they learned a lot about our issues."  Get the difference, David?

Today, those comments hold a privileged place in the column's comments section

Those comments stand as the top two entries in the list of comments designated as "Reader Picks." Of the 1,201 comments to the column in question, these two comments were recommended by the largest number of New York Times readers!

They're also included in the list of comments designated as "NYT Picks." Some editor may have thought they were outstanding comments, worthy of recommendation.

Different people will react to those comments in different ways. We'll only note that these commenters instantly engaged in the kinds of "sweeping generalizations" the column in question discussed.

In addition, we'll have to add this:

With apologies, the comment from Colorado could hardly be much dumber. The commenter characterizes something said by some small number of Trump voters on some particular NPR program or programs. 

(The commenter may have been referring to this "civic experiment," in which "six Coloradans, three who voted for Trump and three who didn't, br[oke] bread together" in May 2017.) 

Based on reported comments by a few Trump voters, the commenter seems to make a sweeping generalization about 74.2 million other Trump voters. The conduct could hardly be dumber, but the conduct is deeply human.

Meanwhile, the comment from "CS" is an absolute classic in the field of sweeping generalization:

Everyone in the commenter's group is honest, upstanding and pure. Everyone in the other group—in the group which is despised—is heinous all the way down.  

Everyone in the other group "believes that their extreme view of Christianity should be the law of the land for all of us, disdains education and sneers at those of us who have college degrees." Everyone in the other group even "believes in white nationalism!" 

Inevitably, everyone in the other group "ought to be ashamed of themselves." This is the essence of the conduct the column in question described.

It would be hard to overstate the stupidity of that second presentation. But it received the second most recommendations from New York Times readers, trailing only the number of recommendations garnered by the amazing stupid comment which generalized from statements reportedly made by a handful of people who spoke on some radio show.

You can't get dumber than those two comments, but members of Our Own Infallible Tribe stood in line to recommend them. This is the nature of "the problem we all currently live with" as one observer after another describes the existential peril our failing nation now faces.

If Democrats hope to win a larger number of future elections, they will almost surely have to peel away a certain number of people who voted for Trump. Sweeping denunciations of this extremely stupid kind may not be the best way to accomplish this task—and yes, this is exactly the kind of thinking which has led to violent tribal wars all across the face of the globe since the dawn of time.

Our human brains are wired for these deeply stupid generalizations. That's true within our vastly self-impressed Blue Tribe, just as it's true within the Red Tribe which is functioning Over There.

As we noted on Monday, the column in question wasn't perfectly reasoned. On the other hand, the basic recommendations the column made were just blindingly obvious—unless you belong to our self-impressed tribe, in which case the love of loathing is often extremely strong.

Our corporate tribunes sell us this porridge on our "cable news" channels. (The red tribe's corporate tribunes behave the same way Over There.) We humans have construed the world in this highly familiar way since we first crawled out on the land.

Today, we're going to make two recommendations to members of our blue tribe. The first recommendation relates to these two deeply stupid comments. We start by noting this:

Everyone who voted for Trump isn't exactly like the most regressive person who voted for Trump. Our constant insistence to the contrary—our love for sweeping claims about the 74 million deplorables—only makes it that much harder to accumulate future votes.

That leads to our first recommendation:

Stop believing those stupid claims about The Others. More significantly, stop making these deeply stupid statements in public.

That would be our first bit of advice. Our second recommendation concerns the widely-discussed recent colloquy between Ezra Klein and David Shor.

Shor makes a suggestion which is perfectly sensible, at least as far as it goes. He suggests that Democrats should stop discussing unpopular ideas—should concentrate on policies and programs which are broadly popular.

That suggestion is perfectly sensible, at least as far as it goes. That said, a principled person might respond by saying that we sometimes need to discuss unpopular values and ideas if we hope to move the society forward.

That statement makes sense too, though it's subject to widespread abuse. And since many members of our tribe will want to discuss issues involving gender, ethnicity, immigration and "race," we'll offer this second suggestion:

Stop making The Stupidest Possible Comments when you discuss such important topics.

Our vastly self-impressed tribe spills with such unhelpful comments. Our assistant, associate and adjunct professors often lead the way in this area, joined by some of our corporate "cable news" stars.

They love to make the kinds of dumb remarks which mainly succeed in convincing The Others that our tribe is dumb as a sack of rocks, or that we're committed to unpleasant values and perhaps to hidden outcomes. These frameworks now appear in the Washington Post and the New York Times every single day, though members of our own tribe may not be able to spot them.

As with all human tribes, our own tribe—at least on balance—can be extremely dumb. As with all very dumb human tribes, we love to praise Ourselves and to denigrate The Others.

We love to make inane remarks without stopping to consider The Way We Look to Others. When tribal  members do such things, we shower them with "recommendations." This is the way of the world.

This is the way we humans behave until we teach ourselves not to. If we want to win more elections, maybe our vastly self-impressed tribe should rein this impulse in.

Please don't do X, the column said. Our tribe took that as a challenge! According to major anthropologists, such is the way of the world.

Next week: People in Anchorage, people right here / The way people look to others