The Others believe stupid things, Solnit says!


Over Here, we Democrats don't: We were strongly underwhelmed by last weekend's Sunday Review in the New York Times.

Talk about first world problems! There was Professor Manne, seeming to say that there are too few somewhat overweight women in the world of academic philosophy:

MANNE (1/9/22): I have lately wondered how much my self-directed fatphobia owes to my career as an academic philosopher. More than one author has remarked that there is a dearth of fat, female bodies in academia in general and in philosophy specifically. Philosophy, with its characteristic emphasis on reason, often implicitly conceives of rationality as the jurisdiction of the lean, rich, white men who dominate my discipline.

Among our elites, it's surprising to see how often such problems prevail.

When last we heard from Professor Manne, she was insisting that we all should believe Tara Reade's claims against Candidate Biden. 

(Headline in The Nation: "I Believe Tara Reade. And You Should, Too.")

Were Reade's accusations true? It's our impression that many people decided they probably weren't. Basically, our tribe largely let her claims fade away—and as far as we know, no one has asked Professor Manne what she thinks of them now.

Instead, the Times published her ruminations about the relative dearth of fat women in academia in general and in philosophy specifically. It can be hard to get liberals to see how underwhelming our tribe can be, especially on its more exalted ends.

The Sunday Review also featured an essay by Rebecca Solnit. She started with a statement which was perfectly accurate, after which she got amazingly fuzzy real fast:

SOLNIT (1/9/22): When called upon to believe that Barack Obama was really born in Kenya, millions got in line...

It's true! If reputable surveys can be believed, millions of people did "get in line" when Donald J. Trump spent four years serving as King of the Birthers. 

After some instantly fuzzy claims, Solnit started her second paragraph with another statement which is basically accurate. Even though it's basically accurate, it's a statement we wouldn't make in the same manner ourselves:

SOLNIT: While much has been said about the moral and political stance of people who support right-wing conspiracy theories, their gullibility is itself alarming...

We wouldn't put it that way ourselves, but widespread mistaken and bogus belief has been a major national problem for at least the past thirty years. What bothers us about good, decent people like Solnit is this:

Perhaps a bit gullibly, such people seem to believe that mistaken and false belief only occurs Over There!

Solnit's column was a classic of the genre, with highly flawed reasoning used to establish the claim that we reason quite well. 

"Democrats operate on the basis of reasonably factual premises and usually accept the authority of science, law and history," Solnit says near the end of her essay, "while Republicans uninhibitedly push whatever’s most convenient for their goals and incendiary for their base." 

Those uninhibited Others today! 

That particular passage could have come with a hat tip to Goofus and Gallant! At any rate, that's the story we creatures have peddled ever since we first crawled up on dry land—or at least, so the experts have always all told us.

At present, the pro-Trump base really has surrendered its trust to a set of unreliable narrators. In very large numbers, they even believe that Donald J. Trump won the 2020 election. 

In very large numbers, that belief has taken hold in the absence of anything dimly resembling serious evidence. A relatively small number of pro-Trump types have even acted out violently in support of this bogus claim.

That said, is it true that we unassailable Democrats "operate on the basis of reasonably factual premises and usually accept the authority of science, law and history?"

Isn't it pretty to think so? we'd say. And we'd say that the answer is no.

Solnit goes on, at some length, about how "gullible" The Others are. As a matter of basic courtesy, and in search of a more successful politics, we'd recommend staying away from that word, except when describing one's own.

Over the course of the past dozen years, our tribe has invented all sorts of false claims! All too often, we've been a bit cruel as we've pushed these false claims, and we don't think we've served anyone well in the process.


  1. Somerby falsely accuses Dems of pushing false claims. It is a day of the week so it is not unexpected.

    Not only is Somerby's zombie criticism just plain wrong, it is just plain boring too; a repetitive garbled mess repeated daily like tasteless oatmeal mush served in prison.

    And like every other day, Somerby will get reamed in the comments.

    1. By one troll posting under different names. What a reaming!

    2. You fixate on names because you have nothing to say about anything else.

  2. Kate Manne writes about "testimonial injustice." She says "Teestimonial injustice arises due to systematic biases in the "economy of credibility"...It afflicts members of a certain social group, most notably when the group has historically been and to some exten remains unjustly socially subordinate." (Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, 2017).

    Manne would no more accept Tara Reade's assertions about Biden than she would automatically accept Biden's denial. She has pointed out that in he said-she said situations, the man is believed and the woman is not, simply because of the man's social status. After investigation, Tara Reade's claims were found to be not credible, but that investigation is crucial. The tendency to dismiss women's claims without investigation is an aspect of misogyny that Kate Manne was addressing, not Biden's guilt or Tara Reade's accuracy.

    Somerby, who was himself a philosophy major at Harvard, doesn't seem to know how to present another person's argument fairly. He deals in straw men and misrepresentations and never presents actual evidence to support his often offensive assertions.

    Today, he pretends that Kate Manne's offhand remark about the absence of fat women in her department shows that Manne is both elite and has no more serious problems in her life. That is fatuous but also demonstrates bad faith.

    There are few fat women in Manne's philosophy department (she is an Associate Professor at Cornell) because there are so few women in philosophy. Like history, it is a field populated largely by men. Taken out of context, Manne's remark sounds silly, but so what? It isn't the sum total of her contribution to philosophy. If a man were quoted making some remark about fishing would Somerby take him to task as having no more important concerns in his life? Somerby's intent is to portray Manne as vacuous based on a quip.

    Manne's book about misogyny might have been based on Somerby as an exemplar. His dislike of Maddow would serve as an example in several sections of her book. The way he targets her today, is yet another example.

  3. "Among our elites, it's surprising to see how often such problems prevail."

    What problem is Somerby referring to? It is the problem that women have getting hired in academic philosophy departments (and in other fields as well). Somerby finds it "surprising" that highly educated women would complain about the difficulty getting jobs in the field they have trained in. Has Somerby never heard of job discrimination? Or is this an extension of his refusal to believe that the gernder pay gap is real?

    Why are women not allowed to pursue such jobs and not permitted to complain about disparities when finding such work is difficult (compared to male peers)? Why is this presented as trivial? Partly because Somerby makes some assumptions: (1) it is right for men to dominate philosophy departments, (2) women do not belong in such departments and should stay where they do belong not try to take men's work away from them, (3) women complain too much and their complaints are unjustified, what do they expect to get in the job market, (4) women should confine themselves to their own fields such as nursing or teaching and leave the men's jobs to men, (5) men suffer in silence and take their difficulties stoically without whining, except they don't.

    The presumption that men are entitled to work in philosophy whereas women are encroaching and have no right to complain, in fact should be grateful to be there, is an example of sexist beliefs and the hostility toward women who do complain is misogyny, just as Somerby's belittling of Manne for her remark (which she didn't even make herself, but was citing others as saying) is also misogynist.

    The way Somerby targets female professors, journalists, cable news hosts and guests, and female politicians is an example of the hostility women engender when trying to break out of stereotypical roles and attempt nontraditional occupations, especially those with power, status and high pay. Somerby resents the money that Maddow makes. He resents the status and power of successful women and he uses any opportunity to take them down a peg, which is the essence of misogyny -- efforts made to uphold the system that keeps women subordinate and away from such positions in our society. Somerby's own lack of success in such areas motivates him to attack women who gain attention through their own successes, such as Manne and the others he targets here daily.

  4. "Even though it's basically accurate, it's a statement we wouldn't make in the same manner ourselves:"

    And this makes Solnit fuzzy? There are no examples of actual fuzziness beyond this claim. Somerby objects to the idea that there is greater gullibility on the right than on the left. Even though studies repeatedly find this to be true, coupled with less education on the right and less knowledge about current events (especially among Fox watchers). The facts are with Solnit, not Somerby, on this claim.

    1. Somerby said Einstein was fuzzy too. Solnit is perhaps in good company.

  5. The main problem with Somerby's stance is that he assumes that he himself knows what is true and what is false. He makes his own beliefs the standard for truth. To the extent that he himself is gullible, he will be unable to assess others on the right or the left.

    At some point, Somerby decided to side with the right on matters of belief. Unfortunately, truth is not on his side. To the extent that Somerby believes lies told about the left by the right, he is misjuding the left and his many claims that the left is mistaken, just like the right, are incorrect because those claims come from the right and are part of the right's propaganda against the left. And Somerby is certainly gullible for believing it.

    These days, Somerby mostly just calls the left names. His occasional attempts to demonstrate an incorrect liberal belief consist largely of nitpicks of media statements that may not even represent liberal thought. Many more of his accusations consist of opinion, not fact. Such as Somerby's opinion that Rittenhouse was defending himself when he shot not one but several unarmed men in Kenosha. Or Somerby's opinion that Rachel clowns around too much. Those are not matters of fact at all.

  6. "That said, is it true that we unassailable Democrats "operate on the basis of reasonably factual premises and usually accept the authority of science, law and history?"

    Isn't it pretty to think so? we'd say. And we'd say that the answer is no."

    I think Somerby is off his rocker. It is obviously true that the left accepts science more when it comes to covid. It is also true that the left accepts the science of climate change the efforts needed to save our planet from global warming, while the right does not. It is true that the left accepts the evidence that there was not vote tampering in the 2020 election, whereas many on the right will not, no matter how many audits are performed. The left supports higher education, the right not so much. The left respects the expertise of teachers, the right prefers interference by parents. If the right respected science and knowledge and facts, it would have been repelled by Trump's many ignorant statements and sought competence in a presidential candidate, not a mirror of their own ignorance.

    Today there is yet another humorous tweet about a Republican who thinks we cannot combat covid because viruses are too small to see. Not so humorous are the many incorrect beliefs held by right-wing men about women's bodies and how pregnancy, miscarriage and abortion work, oblivious of both medicine and physiology ("the body has a way of shutting that down"). The left favors census by sampling whereas the right doesn't understand how sampling works, so it insists on the old fashioned methods of counting people. The list of differences based on knowledge is endless.

    But Somerby makes a gut judgment and claims that the left doesn't believe in science either? That's nonsense. It is the left that funds research and trusts NOAA when it says where a hurricane will go, whereas Trump draws his own lines on a map and calls it truth.

  7. "Over the course of the past dozen years, our tribe has invented all sorts of false claims!"

    This sentence is perhaps true if you consider that Somerby is not a member of the liberal tribe but of the conservative tribe himself. He is in the business of manufacturing false claims and he has not made a convincing case that liberals have as many or as pernicious false beliefs as are circulating on the right.

  8. "When last we heard from Professor Manne, she was insisting that we all should believe Tara Reade's claims against Candidate Biden. "

    But of course we should, dear Bob: her claims were confirmed by a dozen witnesses, not to mention her mother calling the Larry King show. There's no doubt.

    1. Not even remotely kinda sorta true. But, we can fairly assume Mao is a morbidly obese dunce who seldom gets out of his chair so this one hits close to home.

  9. If the right were the big believers in science and facts, they would be the ones being called elitist, not the left.

    1. Instead, the people who aren’t big believers in science and facts are kicked off FB and Twitter for policy and personal suggestions and opinions that that are based upon dangerous liberality in the midst of a pandemic, until they aren’t…

    2. Anyone who gives me the right to over-rule corporate boardrooms gets my vote.

  10. This is a better explanation of what's going on than anything Somerby has to offer:


  11. We never watch politicians speak, dear Bob, but thanks to Howie Carr we get the highlights:

    It's funny, sure, but what about the nuclear codes, dear Bob?! The nuclear codes!!!

    Do you remember, dear Bob, your grave concerns not too long ago? How do you manage to suppress them now? Is it the pills, antidepressant pills? Or something stronger?

  12. Somerby thinks racism is over, but here is what it is like being a minority among white people who think you shouldn't be going about your life, doing normal things such as this family was by attending a sporting event:

    "The incident reportedly occurred Monday night when an immigrant family, including a 10-year-old, were returning home from a New York Knicks game.

    The video appears to show beer being thrown toward the family, before a man can be seen yelling at them, "Look straight! Don't f*cking look at me! I'm going to get arrested tonight!"

    After another passenger tells the man that the argument is not worth getting arrested over, he responds, "I know it's not worth it, but these f*cking foreigners ain't taking over my f*cking country!"

    1. Somerby most likely would say that the two who harassed this immigrant family are the real victims, because they lost their jobs over it and foreigners are taking over their country!

    2. "I know it's not worth it, but these f*cking foreigners ain't taking over my f*cking country!"

      Oh dear. It sounds like your friend had forgotten to say "this is MAGA country!". Nah, Jussie Smollett is not going to pay him. No way, Jose.

    3. Debby - another sock puppet.

    4. 6:50 - Mao sock-puppeting.

  13. Lib/con are often useful labels but ironically, only privileged people explain everything with personality. Fox is an insane hate machine too. That's a little bigger picture.

    But she's right, on principle, to wait to include people. Without getting talent into society, we're doomed to suffer mediocrity. Remember "How much is that doggy in the window" was about as far as mainstream music was going to go for a while, just pleasant non-ethnic knee tapping wholesomeness. You can apply this to sexism, racism, and sure, size bigotry.

    Also, diversity in discussions like affirmative action is usually thought of by bigots as as undermining competition. "Oh he just got that job because he's Black." But the reality is, without diversity, you likely didn't even attempt competition in the first place.

    1. That should say *she's right to want to include people

  14. Now 14 year old girls cannot play basketball without hearing racial slurs -- that's because racism is not over, as Somerby keeps insisting:

    "Lakewood is the only majority-minority public school system in majority-white Ocean County, and has been the site of tensions for years. In 2019, a report showed that Hispanic and Black student athletes at Lakewood High School were subject to frequent hate speech by opposing players, fans, and even coaches.

    Schools all over the country have been forced to respond to similar incidents, including a school in the Houston area where a student put violent lynching threats in a group chat, and a viral video at Prior Lake High School in Minnesota showing a student targeting a 14-year-old classmate with the N-word and telling her to "f**king kill yourself."

    The existence of schools consisting of mostly minority children in the midst of all white areas exacerbates racial tensions. That's why desegregation is important to education, but Somerby insists that there are insufficient minority kids to integrate nearby white schools. The alternative of placing all minority kids into a single school is no remedy, as these incidents clearly show.

    This kind of behavior isn't good for kids.

  15. Tara Reade was forgotten about because her legal team dropped her when it was shown she had padded her resume to act as an “expert witness” in several trials. Bob is not alone in letting this pass without comment. But letting it go after hyping Reade’s charges and not telling its viewers is actually one of the worst things MSNBC has ever done.


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