SATURDAY, APRIL 30, 2022
Services to resume: After unexpected delay, we've returned to our sprawling, award-winning campus.
On Monday, services resume.
MONDAY, APRIL 25, 2022
That mission of national import: You may recall the mission of national import to which we referred last Thursday.
That mission got pushed ahead to today. Also, we don't expect to post tomorrow, although we can't be sure.
As we depart on that mission, we'll recommend this report at Slate, though we don't recommend its contents:
The Black BYU Students Asking the Questions White People Don’t Want to Answer
For those who want to consider the way the quality of the national press corps is sliding, the pure silliness of that report by Hampton and Kircher is a document for the ages.
We may go into detail in the future. Be sure to watch the videotapes included in the report.
A serious nation can't function this way. Top experts agree on that point.
SATURDAY, APRIL 23, 2022
What happens at times of heightened conflict: What happens at times of heightened tribal conflict?
Today, we'll take a look at what can happen, at such times, within the journalistic context, even at the highest levels of the elite national press.
We'll start with a passage from a front-page report in yesterday's New York Times—a front-page report which has generated oodles of comment. Hard-copy headline included, the front-page report by Burns and Martin started like this:
After Jan. 6, G.O.P. Leaders’ Anger Faded Fast
In the days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building, the two top Republicans in Congress, Representative Kevin McCarthy and Senator Mitch McConnell, told associates they believed President Trump was responsible for inciting the deadly riot and vowed to drive him from politics.
Mr. McCarthy went so far as to say he would push Mr. Trump to resign immediately: “I’ve had it with this guy,” he told a group of Republican leaders, according to an audio recording of the conversation obtained by The New York Times.
Our question today will be simple. In the days after January 6, did McCarthy really "vow to drive [Donald J. Trump] from politics?"
Also, did McCarthy really "go so far as to say he would push Mr. Trump to resign immediately?" Or are we possibly looking at exciting embellishments of what the actual evidence shows?
Burns and Martin chose to begin their front-page report with the statement that McCarthy made that "vow." Reading through their entire report, we see no evidence in support of that claim.
(Admittedly, the claim is exciting.)
As evidence in support of their statement, the reporters present a 95-second excerpt from the audiotape of an hour-long phone conversation among Republican leaders on January 10. Except, alas:
During that brief audio excerpt, McCarthy didn't even "vow" that he was going to call Trump to discuss resignation at all! Here's what McCarthy says on the tape, as he replies to Liz Cheney:
CHENEY (1/10/21): Is there any chance? Are you hearing that he might resign? Is there any reason to think that might happen?
MCCARTHY: I've had a few discussions. My gut tells me no. I'm seriously thinking of having that conversation with him tonight. I haven't talked to him in a couple of days.
Um, from what I know of him, I mean you guys all know him too, do you think he'd ever back away? But what I think I'm going to do is, I'm going to call him.
This, this is what I think. We know it'll pass the House. I think there's a chance it'll pass the Senate, even when he's gone. Um, and I think there's a lot of different ramifications for that.
Now, I haven't had a discussion with the Dems, that if he did resign, would that happen?
Now, this is one personal fear I have. I do not want to get into any conversation about Pence pardoning.
Again, the only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign. Um, I mean that would be my take. But I don't think he would take it. But I don't know.
As you can see, McCarthy doesn't even "vow" that he'll speak with Trump at all! He says he's "seriously thinking of" speaking with Trump. He says he "thinks" he's going to call him.
In the event that he does makes that call, does McCarthy really say that he will "push Mr. Trump to resign immediately?" (Our emphasis.)
That strikes us as a minor embellishment too. To our ear, McCarthy doesn't say that he'll "push" Trump to do anything. He merely says that he will recommend that Trump resign, based on the assumption that, as matters stand, Trump is going to be impeached by the House and will possibly be convicted by the Senate.
(At one point, McCarthy seems to suggest that resignation would be a way to stave off conviction.)
Meanwhile, where does McCarthy ever "vow to drive [Trump] from politics?" Nothing in the audio excerpt, or in the entire front-page report, seems to support that thrilling claim. But there it is, the very first claim the reporters make in their front-page report.
Do these observation matter? Only if expectations of journalistic accuracy matter—and experts say they rarely do, given the way we're all wired.
In the first few days after the January 6 attack, did McCarthy vow to drive Donald J. Trump from politics? It's exciting to say that he did, but we can't find a lick of evidence to support the exciting claim with which the reporters started.
This type of exciting embellishment takes place across competing tribal dials at times of high partisan conflict. Or at least, so major experienced world-class experts have all repeatedly said.
Heightened conflict yields heightened claims! That's what these experienced scholars have despondently said.
Also this: Your lizard brain will urge you to fight back against these observations. "It's our human wiring, plain and simple," or so major experts have said.
FRIDAY, APRIL 22, 2022
What happens at times of war: What happens at times of tribal war? As a general matter, something of the following type will routinely occur:
Tribal Group A will make a reasonably reasonable point—but uh-oh! As it makes this reasonably reasonable point, Tribal Group A engages in wild name-calling and substantial overstatement.
Tribal Group B responds to this with name-calling of its own. As it does, its tribunes fail to notice the fact that a reasonably reasonable point can be found within the wild name-calling and substantial overstatements of Tribal Group A.
Exchanges like these have attended the recent Florida / Wisconsin public school tribal messaging wars. Consider the recent flap about those math textbooks in Florida. At the Washington Post, Valerie Strauss provides the background:
STRAUSS (4/21/22): Days after announcing that it had rejected 41 percent of math textbooks submitted by publishers—some of them because of references to critical race theory and other “prohibited” topics—the Florida Department of Education on Thursday released four examples of lessons it considers unacceptable.
Strauss presented the four examples cited by Florida officials. One example involves a problem in statistics concerning the age-old question, "What percentage of conservatives turn out to be slobbering racists?"
Does it make good sense to present such problems in a public school math text? Kevin Drum offers the following assessment. It's hard to say that he's wrong:
DRUM (4/21/22): So the lesson here is that conservatives are racist, as proven by a test that's of dubious reliability.
Nice work, textbook people. This is insane. I can't imagine there's a conservative governor anywhere in the country who wouldn't be offended by this. If this math book included a similar bar graph showing crime rates by race, do you think that liberal governors might be equally offended?
For chrissake. How about if we stick to bar charts of smog levels at different hours of the day, or something like that?
It's hard to say that Drum is wrong about an example which shoehorns such a touchy subject into a basic math text. Meanwhile, for the sheer stupidity of which our own liberal tribe is capable, just check a few of the early comments to Drum's post.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep—but the world is full of people with imperfect judgment. We'd offer the same cautionary note about the recent flap concerning the "Libs of TikTok" Twitter site. In this case, Taylor Lorenz provides the background, again at the Washington Post:
LORENZ (4/21/22): On March 8, a Twitter account called Libs of TikTok posted a video of a woman teaching sex education to children in Kentucky, calling the woman in the video a “predator.” The next evening, the same clip was featured on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program, prompting the host to ask, “When did our public schools, any schools, become what are essentially grooming centers for gender identity radicals?”
Libs of TikTok reposts a steady stream of TikTok videos and social media posts, primarily from LGBTQ+ people, often including incendiary framing designed to generate outrage. Videos shared from the account quickly find their way to the most influential names in right-wing media. The account has emerged as a powerful force on the Internet, shaping right-wing media, impacting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and influencing millions by posting viral videos aimed at inciting outrage among the right.
In one way, Lorenz is perfectly right. Libs of TikTok does offer "incendiary framing [presumably] designed to generate outrage" as it presents its videos. On the other hand, the videos routinely show an array of lefty-leaning public school teachers displaying rather shaky judgment about the way they should or do interact with public school kids.
In other words, stupid claims about "grooming" accompany arguably stupid video presentations. Over Here in our self-impressed tribe, we ridicule the Libs of TikTok site for its inflammatory language. This lets us ignore the legitimate concerns which sensible people may have concerning the videos themselves.
At times of tribal war, overwrought members of warring tribes seek each other out. Bad judgment occurs in profusion.
Tribal Group A can see how stupid and venal Tribal Group B is. Tribal Group B can spot the same grotesque shortcomings among members of Tribal Group A.
Wild misstatements are exchanged; people call each other names. By way of contrast, in a functioning society and culture, people seek out ways in which they can all get along. It's straight outta Goofus and Gallant, by way of the late Rodney King!
Our own blue tribe swims with bad judgment, as do all human tribes. As Drum noted, math problems about These Racist Conservatives Today can sensibly be viewed as one example of this unfortunate fact.
A dangerous observation: Tucker Carlson often starts his nightly show with a reasonably reasonable point. As a general matter-—though not always!—this gives way to embellishment, illogic and wild-name-calling by 8:02 P.M.
THURSDAY, APRIL 21, 2022
No additional fish at this time: We're off on that mission of national import. We won't have further fish today. Quite possibly, no fish tomorrow as well.
In the meantime, we'll recommend this new post by Kevin Drum—a post in which Drum explores the return of the super-predator theme.
How unwise does our blue tribe get? This zombie theme qualifies as a recurring example.
During the 2016 campaign, Candidate Clinton was widely attacked, from within our own tribe, because she had used that term, on one occasion, back in the 1990s. (The term was judged to be presumptively racist.)
Did Trump end up reaching the White House on the force of that critique? There's no way to prove that he didn't!
This morning, the moral panic surrounding that term has returned to the New York Times. Drum provides some context from the 1990s. For the record, there's quite a bit more where that comes from.
We'll also suggest that you ponder this new piece by Jonathan Chait. Pleasingly snarky headline included, the essay begins as shown:
Trump Sees Very Fine People on Both Sides of Ukraine War
Last night [on April 18], Donald Trump issued one of his periodic official statements, expressing his regret about the course of Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine. He did not use the name Putin. Nor, for that matter, did he use the word attack. Instead, Trump framed the invasion as a problem the two countries have tragically failed to work out together:
[Latest dumb, self-serving statement by Trump]
This remarkable construction deserves closer analysis, but first it’s worth understanding the context. Trump infamously described Putin as a “genius” for massing troops on Ukraine’s border. He has repeatedly declined efforts by allies such as Sean Hannity to coax him into condemning the invasion.
From that, a reader will almost surely get the impression that Trump has never condemned Mr. Putin's invasion. As we've noted again and again, that is simply untrue.
He has condemned the invasion, in very stark terms, on at least three separate occasions. We've posted those statements, and provided the links, again and again and again.
This doesn't mean that Trump's various statements make some sort of ultimate sense. His wandering, inane presentations almost never do.
But even as Trump wanders about, Chait engages in classic selective presentation. He mentions the statements which fit a pleasing, simplified cartoon. He disappears, or at least he seems to disappear, all the rest.
Donald J. Trump is deeply disordered. Hard though it may be for us blue tribals to understand, the daily performance of our own elites is remarkably pitiful too.
It's like this at times of moral panic. Or at least, so the experts have said.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20, 2022
Sympathy for Cassandra: As it turns out, we shouldn't have started a week-long report this week.
As it turns out, we've been called away from our sprawling campus on a mission of national import. For that reason, we won't be able to finish this week's report on The Disappeared.
We won't be able to wrestle with a certain complex story. We refer to the story concerning the young woman who was held up at gunpoint.
(It's a story you've never heard. The complex story involves Al Sharpton, but also the New York Times.)
We won't be able to get to that story this week. But as we prepare to exit our campus, we increasingly sympathize / identify with Cassandra, the prophet with no last name.
Cassandra, daughter of Priam and Hecuba, could see disaster coming for her native Troy. Her problem was, she couldn't get anyone else to see it.
The leading authority on this history recounts these events as shown:
Cassandra was said to be a daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Her older brother was Hector, hero of the Greek-Trojan war. The older and most common versions state that she was admired by the god Apollo, who sought to win her with the gift to see the future. According to Aeschylus, she promised him her favors, but after receiving the gift, she went back on her word and refused the god. The enraged Apollo could not revoke a divine power, so he added to it the curse that though she would see the future, nobody would believe her prophecies.
The sexual politics of those days was primitive, undisguised. More on these events:
Her cursed gift from Apollo became an endless pain and frustration to her. She was seen as a liar and a madwoman by her family and by the Trojan people. Because of this, her father, Priam, had locked her away in a chamber and guarded her like the madwoman she was believed to be. Though Cassandra made many predictions that went unbelieved, the one prophecy that was believed was that of Paris being her abandoned brother.
Before the fall of Troy took place, Cassandra foresaw that if Paris went to Sparta and brought Helen back as his wife, the arrival of Helen would spark the downfall and destruction of Troy during the Trojan War. Despite the prophecy and ignoring Cassandra's warning, Paris still went to Sparta and returns with Helen. While the people of Troy rejoice, Cassandra, angry with Helen's arrival, furiously snatched away Helen's golden veil and tore at her hair.
In Virgil's epic poem, the Aeneid, Cassandra warned the Trojans about the Greeks hiding inside the Trojan Horse, Agamemnon's death, her own demise at the hands of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, her mother Hecuba's fate, Odysseus's ten-year wanderings before returning to his home, and the murder of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra by the latter's children Electra and Orestes.
She issued those warnings, but no one believed her. So it went for Cassandra of Troy.
As we acknowledged several years ago, Cassandra has been advising us on occasion, addressing us through the nocturnal submissions the haters refer to as dreams. Like Cassandra, we think we see disaster coming, though of course we could always be wrong.
Cassandra's vision involved the tribal warfare between the Trojans and the Achaeans (the Argives). Our vision involves the ongoing tribal warfare between our nation's red and blue tribes, with combat among an ever-increasing array of identity groups adding to the complexification, confusion, disorganization and distrust.
We don't see an obvious way out of this situation. Mountains of money are being made by corporate and personal entities who stoke these intergroup wars. Tribal novelization is big business now.
Regarding the various identity groups to which we've referred, each of these various groups has its own complaints. None of these complaints is necessarily "wrong," but all these complaints will be overstated or built on misstatement at times.
It's Cassandra who has called our attention to these disastrous patterns. We don't see a good way out of the mess, given the systemic, structural nature of this advancing war.
How do matters stand at present? Things aren't encouraging at all.
In our view, the red tribe has already seceded, at least on the leadership levels. Meanwhile, our own blue tribe is busy doing two things:
We're busy creating invidious distinctions between an ever-increasing array of identity groups. For example, black women are now invidiously compared to black men. Stereotypical insults about the Karens are occasionally thrown in.
We're also busy trying to get The Others locked up. These seem like two perfect ways to lose future elections. It's also true that our love of loathing tends to blind us to such facts.
(Or so Cassandra tells us. Even after all these years, she's extremely convincing.)
This morning, as we prepared for our coming mission, we watched a bit more Morning Joe than we normally would. We had these reactions to a pair of fascinating segments, each of which can be watched at the Morning Joe site:
In the first segment to which we refer, Jonathan Haidt discussed his new essay in The Atlantic, "Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid."
Haidt said the evolving culture of social media has been turning the nation into a Babel. (His term. Beyond that, he explicitly said that we can typically see the "stupidity" of other groups, but we can't quite see our own.)
Haidt described social media's role in creating a Babel. (He didn't mention the role played by mainstream news orgs.)
But uh-oh! When Haidt suggested that unbalanced, unintelligent commentary on social media is coming at us from various points on the political spectrum, we thought we saw Professor Glaude make the classic unhelpful suggestion:
The stupidity is only coming from Them; it isn't coming from Us. Or at least, that's what we thought Professor Glaude pretty much said.
Is that what Professor Glaude said? We thought that's what we saw him suggest. If you choose to watch the segment, you'll have to decide for yourself.
In the second segment to which we refer, Mallory McMorrow, a Wisconsin state senator, discussed the way she was attacked in a recent fund-raising pitch by a Republican colleague.
McMorrow, age 35, is stone-cold political talent. (She graduated from Notre Dame in 2008.)
She looks like talent; she articulates like talent. Then again, there's also what she said.
Yesterday, McMorrow became an instant blue tribe icon, thanks to the aggressive way she pushed back against the charges made in the fund-raising letter. On Morning Joe, we thought McMorrow went wrong, and we'll guess that Cassandra agrees.
On Morning Joe, McMorrow hotly attacked the "hatred" shown by the Republican state senator who launched the accusations. She didn't say that she regretted her colleague's "lack of wisdom." She went straight to a major bomb, with Joe hotly urging her on.
We know what Cassandra will say about that approach. For starters, she'll talk about President Clinton.
("We don't have a single person to waste," the inclusive candidate said in 1992. He campaigned on behalf of everyone who "works hard and plays by the rules.")
She's also going to talk about President Obama's speech, the one which shot him to fame in 2004.
("We pray to God in the blue states," he said. "Also, we coach Little League in the red states.")
That meant that we're the united states, the emerging superstar said. At the time, we wondered why it had taken so long for someone to make that speech.
Cassandra has said it before. There's only one way out of this mess. The savior pol—the new Lincoln, the new FDR—would pretty much have to say this:
I believe in the people who voted for me. I also believe in the people who voted against me.
I endorse every one of you, however you decided to vote. We get to vote the way we choose, but each of us has a citizen's duty. We have a citizen's duty to be careful in the things we say and in the judgments we make.
We have a duty to triple-check the things we're prepared to believe. We have to respect our neighbors and friends if they reach a different judgment. Each of us has a citizen's duty to do those basic things.
Cassandra will say that the savior pol is going to have to make that statement every single time out. We can already hear the howls of protest from the war-inclined citizens behind our own blue walls.
We suspect that it's already too late for any such savior pol. We see people saying the darndest things on various sides of the aisle.
We've become a Babel, we're inclined to say—an angry, routinely unintelligent collections of warring tribes.
Cassandra says she still regrets what happened on the wide plains before Troy. You never really get over such things, the prophet despondently says.
TUESDAY, APRIL 19, 2022
Also, the razor blade wars and the several tomatoes: In his most recent column, Charles Blow outlines the possibility of a "Biden blood bath."
We leap at the chance to recommend Blow. This is observed without comment:
BLOW (4/18/22): There was another worrisome sign in the Quinnipiac poll: Biden’s approval rating among people identified as Hispanics was even lower than it was among those identified as white. Pundits have been discussing Biden’s declining numbers among Hispanics for months. In October, FiveThirtyEight pointed out that “there has been a drop in support for Biden among all three racial and ethnic groups we measured, but the drop among Hispanics—from the high 60s to slightly below 50 percent—marks Biden’s most precipitous decline.”
The reasons for this drop appear to range from a response to the pandemic to the fact that Hispanics hew conservative on some social issues.
But all this taken together—in addition to voter suppression and racial, political gerrymandering—may prove hugely problematic for Democrats and for the administration, unless they can turn things around before Election Day. If not, we could well be looking forward to a Biden blood bath.
We expect to offer a fleeting comment tomorrow.
Meanwhile, as the nation slides toward the blood bath and toward the sea, this was Slate's featured, front-page report this very morning:
In the Early 2000s, the Razor Blade Wars Changed Shaving as We Know It
In the online version of the Washington Post, this INSPIRED LIFE report was featured on today's front page for what was the 13th consecutive morning:
He grew 1,269 tomatoes on a single stem and broke his own world record
There's nothing wrong with any of this. This is completely normal!
Fuller disclosure: Slate's current featured report is this:
What Americans Keep Getting Wrong About Exercise
This all makes perfect sense.
TUESDAY, APRIL 19, 2022
... her assailants were disappeared: It's very depressing to consider discussing The Disappeared.
What makes the prospect so daunting? Anthropologists explain the matter in the following way:
If we try to discuss The Disappeared, we're forced to confront the way our human minds tend to react at times of tribal war.
How "rational" are our human minds, especially at times of tribal dislocation? For starters, consider this passage from Paul Krugman's new column:
KRUGMAN (4/19/22): I’m not just talking about things like the panic over critical race theory, although this has come to mean just about any mention of the role that slavery and discrimination have played in U.S. history. Florida is even rejecting many math textbooks, claiming that they include prohibited topics.
That’s bad. But we’re seeing a growing focus on even more bizarre conspiracy theories, with frantic attacks on woke Disney, etc. And roughly half of self-identified Republicans believe that “top Democrats are involved in elite child sex-trafficking rings.”
It's true! In the YouGov survey to which Krugman links, 49% of self-identified Republicans said they think this statement is true:
"Top Democrats are involved in elite child sex-trafficking rings."
In a rational world, and based on current reporting and evidence, it would be hard to know why anyone would say they think that statement is true.
Yes, the statement is somewhat fuzzy. Presumably, there's some "top Democrat," somewhere in the country or somewhere around the world, who is involved in some sort of enterprise which could be so described.
That said, the question seems to imply a substantial degree of involvement. Aside from direct attraction to The Crazy, it's hard to know what would lead anyone to think that some such statement is true.
Belief in the statement seems to come to us live and direct from The Crazy. But as Krugman notes, 49% of self-identified Republicans told YouGov that they think the statement is true.
Having said that, those Republicans are hardly alone. As part of the YouGov survey, large numbers of other respondents said they think the statement is true.
You can check the numbers here. We offer these chastening examples:
Percentages who said they think the statement is true:
Hispanic Americans: 34%
College graduates (Bachelor's only): 32%
White Americans: 32%
People who get their news from liberal news websites: 28%
Black Americans: 21%
None of those groups believe that statement to the extent that Republicans do. Overall, though, 30% of U.S. citizens said they believe the statement.
Indeed, 21% of Democrats said they believe the statement! Twenty percent of people who said they think QAnon is nuts said they believe it too.
On what basis do these people say they believe that statement? YouGov conducted no follow-up interviews, exploring the basis on which people say they believe the statement.
Nor did YouGov conduct a parallel survey—a survey in which respondents were asked if they believe this statement:
"Top Republicans are involved in elite child sex-trafficking rings."
How many respondents would have agreed with that? Apparently, it didn't occur to the brainiacs at YouGov to ask.
Krugman reported the response rate by Republicans. His statement was perfectly accurate, but it seems to us that this presentation leaves a great deal out.
Left out is a very basic question:
In the end, just how "rational" is our widely self-impressed species? Just how rational is our allegedly "rational" human race?
As Art Linkletter first tried to tell us, we human beings are strongly inclined to believe the darndest things. According to major experts, our belief systems become especially skewed at time of highly partisan tribal war.
During such times, we humans are strongly inclined to pick a tribe and start fighting. We're strongly inclined to believe the best about our own infallible tribe, and to believe the worst about The Others.
So it has gone, it seems to us, during the course of the past ten years, the era Elizabeth Alexander was talking about in Sunday's Washington Post.
In yesterday's report, we offered a quick overview of what Alexander said.
Alexander was discussing a group she calls "The Trayvon Generation." We probably should have included more of her description.
That said, the young people to whom Alexander refers have seen a great deal of information taken "out of context" (Alexander's term) over the past ten years. And not only that:
Along the way, a lot of people, and a lot of facts, have been disappeared.
The young woman who was held up at gunpoint has been disappeared. So too with her assailants. So too with the gruesome criminal history, and the deeply horrible childhood, of the first person who was shot and killed at Kenosha that night.
Other people have been disappeared over the past ten years. So have boatloads of basic facts, all so we can happily believe the darndest things.
According to anthropologists, we humans are strongly inclined to believe the darndest things. Within our remarkably self-impressed liberal tribe, our journalists have been strongly inclined to help us believe such things.
People and facts have been disappeared. Inaccurate facts have been invented. Completely irrelevant facts have been very strongly stressed. Speculations have been widely accepted as fact.
It's very, very, very depressing even to think about reviving The Disappeared! A person with an inner ear can hear the howls of protest which result when we liberals are asked to understand how much information has been withheld from us by our most famous, most trusted news orgs.
Those howls emerge from our lizard brains. You see, we long to believe The Crazy too, and our "journalists"—many went to the finest schools!—have been astoundingly eager to serve The Crazy to us.
We have many "miles to go" before we meet The Disappeared. Tomorrow, we'll consider the latest shooting, along with a bit more of what Alexander said.
Tomorrow: The latest editorial about the latest shooting. Also, more of what Alexander said
MONDAY, APRIL 18, 2022
"The Trayvon Generation:" Elizabeth Alexander is a well-known poet. She's also a good, decent person.
She was interviewed yesterday in the Washington Post Magazine. At the start of the feature, this is the way she was profiled:
Elizabeth Alexander, 59, is a poet, best-selling author, cultural advocate and president of the Andrew Mellon Foundation. She is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist in both poetry and biography. Her new book, “The Trayvon Generation,” expands her 2020 New Yorker essay examining this generation’s artistic and cultural responses to racial injustice and anti-Black violence 10 years after the death of Trayvon Martin.
Alexander has published a book called The Trayvon Generation. Who belongs to that generation? Early in the interview, Alexander answered that question as shown:
ALEXANDER (4/17/22): “The Trayvon Generation” started with an essay published in the New Yorker, written in the wake of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s police [deaths] and the subsequent movement all around the country. So it was a very intense time, and some of the things I had been thinking about for a very long time came to fruition in that essay. Thinking about what I call the Trayvon Generation, the generation of young people, particularly Black and Brown people who grew up with racial violence, not only preponderant but also watchable on their phones. Videotaped, repeatedly. Seen over and over and over again. Seen out of context. Traumatizing and unavoidable. I had been thinking about the group of young people and how did they metabolize their vulnerability when they were forced to witness it over and over and over again. And what was the cultural expression that they were making to help us understand what they were thinking and how they saw the world? As someone who is the mother of two young men, and also as a professor for decades and an auntie to many, I’m always looking and listening to our young people to know what they are thinking, how they are expressing themselves.
Who belongs to The Trayvon Generation? Alexander says that she's talking about "the generation of young people, particularly Black and Brown people who grew up with racial violence, not only preponderant but also watchable on their phones."
This racial violence has been "videotaped, repeatedly," she says. Members of this generation have "seen it over and over and over again on their phones."
In Alexander's view, the experience has been "traumatizing and unavoidable" for these young people. Alexander says this violence has been "seen out of context" by these young people, though she doesn't explain what she means by that.
It seems to us that Alexander is describing an important generational experience. Quite correctly in our view, she dates it to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in early 2012.
For the record, Trayvon Martin's shooting death wasn't captured on videotape, Also, of course, it wasn't a "police [death]."
(It seems that the Post chose to edit something Alexander said at that point.)
That said, the shooting death in 2012 did touch off a new generation of mainstream journalism—a new generation of journalistic emphasis and interpretation. It seems likely to us that this new era of journalism has, in fact, created a great deal of trauma. It also seems to us that a great deal of missing context surrounding these events has come to us, and to that generation, through the astounding new practices our mainstream "journalists" have repeatedly brought to their work.
How has mainstream journalism functioned during this era? Repeatedly, inaccurate claims have been adopted as fact, while relevant facts have been suppressed.
Irrelevant facts have been heavily stressed, while speculations have been treated as fact.
Beyond that, the press has been astounding selective in which of our many "police [deaths]" they've chosen to portray. Certain cases gain round the clock coverage. Many decedents need not apply.
Our journalism has thoroughly broken down—and everyone knows this but us. We liberals have tended to believe the novelized portraits our performative tribe's news orgs have concocted.
It seems to us that this has done a great disservice to members of the generation Alexander describes, but also to everyone else.
With that in mind, we plan to discuss a few of The Disappeared this week—a few of the people our press washed away to maintain its preferred Storyline.
Many such people have been disappeared; the press corps' behavior has been astounding over the past ten years. As Stalin once airbrushed his rivals away, our "journalists" have repeatedly sent people and facts straight down the memory hole.
In red tribe haunts, people hear about this behavior. Only we, in our blue cocoon, will be surprised by the mountains of contexts which have been flushed down that memory hole.
We started this site in 1998. At that time, we didn't know that mainstream journalists were capable of this behavior.
We started the site because it seemed to us that mainstream journalism had already gone around the bend. We didn't know, at that point in time, that people who went to the finest schools could be as disordered as this.
In the end, our learning has been anthropological in its nature. Tomorrow, we'll start with some tales—though only a few—of the past decade's disappeared.
A great deal of "context" has been flushed away. Even back then, in the late 1990s, we pretty much couldn't have dreamed it.
Tomorrow: A young woman, disappeared
SUNDAY, APRIL 17, 2022
Joined now by White House contenders: How dumb does our upper-end discourse get?
It gets amazingly dumb! If you aren't able to grasp that fact, you can't see the world we all live in.
How dumb does it get at the top of the pile? Consider the MOST READ article in the entire, sprawling online universe of the Washington Post.
The article was posted online yesterday morning, at precisely 6 A.M. And at 9 A.M. this very day, it was listed by the Washington Post as the newspaper's MOST READ article.
What article had shot to the top in this way? It's listed as an "Analysis" piece, and it carries this mind-numbing headline:
The top 10 Democratic presidential candidates for 2024, ranked
That dumb! And yes, that article was listed as MOST READ—most read of the endless selection of filler and drivel on display at the online Post.
Full disclosure! The election to which the analysis piece refers will take place in November 2024—thirty-one months from now! At this point, it's sheer insanity to be listing the top ten possibilities for nomination on the Democratic side.
You really have to be out of your mind to mainline "horserace" journalistic culture to such an addictive extent. And please note:
Aaron Blake didn't restrict himself to the top ten possibilities, with Joseph R. Biden ranked at #1 and AOC #10.
Apparently, ten wasn't enough. Blake added these eight more:
Others worth mentioning: Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Stacey Abrams, Mitch Landrieu, Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif.)
You really have to be nuts! But there it was, listed as the MOST READ article in the whole of the online Post. Post readers were wolfing it down.
Meanwhile, riddle yourself this:
A few days ago, we mentioned the peculiar disconnect which obtains between the rather traditional print edition of the Washington Post and the Post's much dumber, much more extensive online edition.
The front page of the online Post goes on and on and on. No inanity gets left behind—for example, the report about the many tomatoes which grew on the vine.
That's right! This morning marks the eleventh consecutive day on which this "Inspired Life" report has appeared on the front page of the online Washington Post:
He grew 1,269 tomatoes on a single stem and broke his own world record
Way back when, Harold Hill had his 76 trombones. Today, the online Washington Post can't quit those twelve hundred tomatoes.
Meanwhile, consider the following oddness:
The tomato report is featured again on the front page of the online Post. It has been there for eleven straight days.
Meanwhile, consider the five articles which appear on the front page (page A1) of this morning's print edition, along with the three article which appear on the front page (page B1) of today's once-a-week Outlook section.
Those eight articles have been granted the highest visibility in the print edition of this morning's Washington Post. But only five of those articles appear on the front page of the online edition at all.
Twelve hundred tomatoes are still found there; three of those eight front-page print articles are not! It's almost like the online Post is a different publication—different and defiantly dumber.
Anthropologists are telling us this:
On balance, it turns out that we're a very dumb people at this point in time. This is nowhere more true, these experts insist, than at the very top of our upper-end mainstream press, where—to borrow from Lake Wobegon—the children have all attended the finest schools and their work is all below average.
Online, the Post can't quit those tomatoes. Major front-page reports don't appear!
FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2022
...and tackles Gifted and Talented: We'll recommend two fascinating articles about two public school issues.
In this morning's New York Times, a news report describes Mayor Adams' "plan to expand [New York City's] gifted and talented classes for elementary students."
Meanwhile, at the Washington Post, Kate Cohen presents an opinion column in which she reacts to the state of Florida's now-famous "Don't Say Gay" law.
Anthropologists are telling us this:
These articles help display the limits to human reason. The world-class experts to whom we refer break it down like this:
Our species is rather good at developing reliable technologies, these scholars tell us. (Examples: We can travel from New York to Los Angeles in roughly five hours. Also, every time you hit the switch, the lights in your house come on.)
We've done sound work in the general area of construction and technology. But according to these unnamed scholars, things go sideways rather fast when it comes to everything else.
Let's take a look at the record! The news report about Gotham's gifted and talented classes appears beneath this headline:
New York City to Expand Gifted and Talented Program but Scrap Test
That said, the "expansion" in question is remarkably slight. Also, the logical howler which dogs these efforts remains unaddressed in the mayor's plan.
That logical howler is this:
If lots more kids could benefit from the GATE program, why not admit all such kids to such classes? Why does the mayor plan to assemble a list of names and then conduct a lottery, with a limited number of qualified kids admitted to these classes?
This logical groaner just never quits, nor does the Times ever notice. We just don't reason especially well, disconsolate scholars insist.
With respect to Cohen's column, experts say it shows what happens when tribal division and partisan anger grow.
The state of Florida has come up with a rather fuzzy law, one which has a strong performative cast. It feels like the sort of thing politicians sometimes do to give constituents the impression that their concerns are being addressed.
Cohen doesn't like the law; she especially doesn't like Others. She raises absurd objections to the law. She never gets around to addressing the basic question:
What can we the (various) people do, as a nation or as a state, to address the concerns which seem to animate this fuzzy new law?
Cohen acts like the apparent concerns are silly, foolish, stupid, absurd. We're willing to guess that this just isn't so, and that we can demonstrate some such fact.
But Cohen goes straight to the kind of tribal derision which only drives nations apart. She's convinced that her reactions are right, and she's willing to cede no ground.
We may discuss Cohen's column next week. Experts say it's an excellent example of the wrong way to tackle such matters.
Our species is good at building tall buildings. According to frustrated major experts, things tend to go downhill from there.
FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2022
Seeing the glass very empty: When Storyline crawls upon the land, few embellishments get left behind.
The story must be made better—or possibly worse. Consider a throw-away characterization found in a front-page report in the New York Times about Ketanji Brown Jackson.
The report began with a somewhat murky account of an incident which occurred while she was an undergraduate at Harvard. We'd say that a type of embellishment lurks in the highlighted description:
GREEN (3/21/22): Ms. Coakley and other longtime friends from Harvard said the reaction of their classmate, now Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, was emblematic of how she navigated one of the most elite and white institutions in the country—after being discouraged from even applying. In the end, her experience at Harvard illustrates how Judge Jackson, 51, has long recognized how America’s conflicting views of race and justice shape the world around her. She has embraced her identity while refusing to let affronts to it distract her.
Is Harvard "one of the most elite institutions in the country?" The school is certainly viewed that way, and so the answer is basically yes.
That said, is Harvard also "one of the most white institutions in the country?" Applying normal rules of interpretation, that seems to be what the highlighted descrpiton says.
It's hard to know what such a claim even means, but it makes the preferred story worse. That said, just how "white" is Harvard today? According to a somewhat comical set of Harvard College statistics, this is the racial / ethnic breakdown of students who were admitted to the class of 2025:
Students admitted to Harvard College, Class of 2025:
African American: 15.9%
Hispanic or Latino: 12.5%
Native American: 1.1%
Native Hawaiian: 0.5%
According to the somewhat comical Harvard graphic, the school apparently didn't admit anyone who is "white!"
(For the record, we're looking here at students who were granted admission, not necessarily at those who will attend.)
Harvard grads—and New York Times journalists—can probably do the math. Those numbers seem to mean that something like only 42% of admitted students were non-Hispanic white. (We're subtracting a couple of points for kids who are biracial.)
We'll guess that most people would be surprised to learn that modern-day Harvard College is so less-than-thoroughly white. We'll guess that you could find quite a few institutions which are actually a bit more white—for example, the editorial board at the Times.
That said, embellishment is the reliable norm when Storyline conquers the land. Tribunes will reliably make the preferred story better—or they'll make it even worse.
Briefly, let's be fair. Harvard College wasn't non-white to that extent when Judge Jackson studied there in the class of 1992. Then too, there's the question of Harvard Law School, where the future Justice Jackson studied next.
After Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court was consented to by the Senate, the New York Times interviewed eight black women who are currently enrolled at Harvard Law. Just like that, a bungled statistic made the preferred story worse:
QIU (4/8/22): The hostile questioning Judge Jackson faced at her confirmation hearings was all too familiar, some women said, reminiscent of their own experiences in classrooms and workplaces.
Her nomination also highlighted the relative rarity of Black women in the legal profession. Only 4.7 percent of lawyers are Black and just 70 Black women have ever served as a federal judge, representing fewer than 2 percent of all such judges. As of October, about 4.8 percent of those enrolled in the law program at Harvard, or 84 people, identified as Black women, compared with just 33 Black women in 1996, when Judge Jackson graduated.
Those statistics are “isolating,” said Mariah K. Watson, the president of the association. “But there’s a comfort in community. There’s a comfort in shared experience. And now we have a role model who’s shown us what it’s going to take.”
We've highlighted the bungled statistic. Let's start with a presumably accurate statistic—one which is simply a bit misleading, in a Storyline-friendly way.
Presumably, it's true! Presumably, fewer than 2 percent of all federal judges have been black women.
Of course, that takes us back through the sweep of American history, during the bulk of which no women, of any race, were federal judges at all. The statistic makes the story seem agreeably worse, but it has nothing to do with the state of the matter today.
We'd call that a (somewhat) misleading statistic. The bungled statistic concerns the state of the matter at Harvard Law School today.
We're told that only 4.8 percent of those enrolled at Harvard Law are black women, even today. The Times links to these official statistics, where one can see that the proffered percentage is bungled.
Among the 1510 students for which the law school lists a race or ethnicity, 858 are listed as "white." The other 652 are listed as "people of color."
(The school lists no race or ethnicity for its 157 "nonresident alien" students. For an additional 80 students, the school lists race / ethnicity as "unknown.")
Of the 1510 students for which the school lists a race or ethnicity, it does list 84 as black women. (The school lists an additional 46 students as biracial women.) Those 84 black women are actually 5.6% of the total, a percentage which may start coming close to matching the percentage of black women in the national population.
None of this speaks to the sense of isolation such women may feel at this school. But when Storyline starts to conquer the land, the outright errors, and the omissions, will tend to make the preferred story better—or, as in this case, will tend to make things seem worse.
Little of this is Judge Jackson's doing or fault. That said, our tribe's reporting of her nomination and confirmation has strongly tended toward Storyline—toward Storyline all the way down.
The questioning was "vicious," we say. It was "shocking" when a senator we think of as white dared to try to "educate" her, given the fact that she's black.
In the way the story has been told, the story is littered with markers of racism—racism real and invented. Our "journalists" keep making the preferred story worse. We insist on seeing the glass very empty, not as increasingly full.
In the process, we dwell on real or imagined insults to Senator Booker's "Double Harvards," even as we ignore the needs of low-income kids nationwide. We dote upon the talented tenth. The others—all those good, decent kids—can pretty much hang in the yard.
We leave you today with the dueling narratives we mentioned yesterday. Do black women still have to be twice as good—possibly even three times as good—to get an even shake?
For that, we turn to a quartet of Double Harvards. We refer to Judge Jackson and her three undergraduate roommates, all of whom went on to Harvard Law.
Four out of four got admitted to Harvard Law School! Based on their subsequent achievement, we know of absolutely zero reason to think that they shouldn't have been.
That said, when you consider those four admissions—when you look at the admission statistics we've posted above—are you sure that black women still have to be twice as good to get an even break from institutions like Harvard?
Our utterly ridiculous, performative tribe will tell the story that way forever. But setting Storyline to the side, is that story still true?
For a final marker of societal progress, we'll turn to one of the eight women at Harvard Law to whom the New York Times spoke.
Her name is Abigail Hall; she's plainly a good, decent person. When she spoke to the Times, a hint of that preferred Storyline may perhaps have broken through:
QIU: Abigail Hall, 23, had always wanted to be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court, but she conceded that “if I have to be second, I’m fine being second to K.B.J.”
“She’s had to meet every single mark and she hasn’t been able to drop the ball,” Ms. Hall said. “And that’s something that’s ingrained in us, in terms of checking every box, in order to be a Black woman and to get to a place like Harvard Law School.”
For starters, good for Hall! Despite what Charles Blow said in his recent column, she already knew that she, a young black woman, could someday serve on the Court.
That said, a certain hint of an old Storyline may appear in that reference to checking every box. Do young black women still have to be twice as good? According to this profile, the following is also true of this self-confident young woman:
Abigail chooses Harvard after been accepted by over 15 other Law Schools: Columbia Law School, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Cornell Law School, University of Chicago, Law School, University of Virginia School of Law, Vanderbilt Law School, Duke Law School, Notre Dame Law School, The George Washington University Law School, Emory Law School, Howard University School of Law, Temple University–James E. Beasley School of Law, University of Miami School of Law, Fordham University School of Law, Tulane University Law School.
Young black women may even be in demand at these elite institutions! It's no longer 1955, unless you insist on reciting the childish offerings pimped by our own failing tribe as it stumbles ahead with its current moral panic.
The Double Harvards are doing OK. Low-income kids, maybe not.
The horrible, dumb elites of our tribe care, or at least pretend to care, about those in the first group. As we noted last week for the ten millionth time, those decent, deserving low-income kids are still being totally left behind wherever our hapless journalistic elites crawl about on the land.
Simply put, we simply don't care. According to some political observers, some voters are starting to notice this fact, in an array of groups.
Still coming: Some odds and ends
THURSDAY, APRIL 14, 2022
CNN, uncomprehending: Commentary on the Jackson confirmation hearings was just pitifully bad.
It was largely composed of embellishment along with the reading of script. It was Storyline all the way down.
For ourselves, we were disappointed in Jackson's widely lauded performance. We felt she kept refusing to answer some perfectly straightforward questions—questions which deserved a simple reply.
That said, the absurdity of the tribal punditry was in no way Jackson's fault. Consider the huffing and puffing on CNN after Jackson had been confirmed.
The huffing and puffing came from the perpetually offended Laura Coates. It would be hard to offer a less informative bit of punditry than the punditry offered here:
COATES (4/7/22): Why on earth, how can it be that we have gone from a time when the very first woman to be a Supreme Court Justice—talking about Sandra Day O'Connor—was, I think, 99-0.
How it can be that somebody who was as qualified as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is having to scrape by, and hope for the kindness of Republican strangers, to tally onto the already unanimous Democratic vote?
That tells you a lot about where we are in this country. And I hope that members of Congress, when they're wondering why the American people sometimes question whether the Supreme Court is a political extension of the legislative branch, I hope they look to themselves and can identify and explain to their constituents why this particular nominee would not have gotten a resounding yes.
But I hope their electorate will understand that, at the end of the day, without it, she still will be Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. And I'm proud. Congratulations, Madam Justice!
Forget the unabashed cheerleading, a practice which now typifies cable punditry all across the dial. Focus instead on the silly question posed by the irate legal analyst as that passage began.
For starters, yes! Way back in September 1981, during President Reagan's first year, Justice O'Connor was indeed confirmed by a 99-0 vote. The leading authority on the matter offers a bit of background:
O'Connor's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee began on September 9, 1981. It was the first televised confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice. The confirmation hearing lasted three days and largely focused on the issue of abortion. When asked, O'Connor refused to telegraph her views on abortion, and she was careful not to leave the impression that she supported abortion rights. The Judiciary Committee approved O'Connor with seventeen votes in favor and one vote of present.
On September 21, O'Connor was confirmed by the U.S. Senate with a vote of 99–0. Only Senator Max Baucus of Montana was absent from the vote, and he sent O'Connor a copy of A River Runs Through It by way of apology.
In those days, the Judiciary Committee somehow managed to get by with only 18 senators posturing and bloviating during televised hearings instead of today's 22.
At any rate, that "one vote of present" in committee came from Jeremiah Denton (R-Alabama). According to the New York Times, Denton said that he had voted that way "because she had refused to criticize the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion."
To a large extent, that battle about Roe v. Wade was the start of it all. One week ago today, CNN's Coates was shocked, shocked by the idea that someone as qualified as Jackson had only received three Republican votes.
Viewers might have been misled into thinking that there was something unusual or surprising about that. In truth, this pattern has obtained for some time. Below, you see the number of votes the last seven nominees have received from senators of the opposition party:
Votes from opposition party, Senate confirmations
Justice Alito (2006): 4
Justice Sotomayor (2009): 9
Justice Kagan (2010): 5
Justice Gorsuch (2017): 3
Justice Kavanaugh (2018): 1
Justice Barrett (2020): 0
Justice Jackson (2022): 3
When he was confirmed in 2005, Justice Roberts received 22 Democratic votes. That made him the last of the Mohicans as far as getting oppositions votes is concerned.
Even there, those Democratic votes partly represented a dying tradition, in which Democrats were still able to win Senate seats in states which were solid red.
Included in those 22 Democratic votes were three votes from the Dakotas, along with votes from such states as Arkansas (2), Louisiana (2), West Virginia (2), Nebraska and Montana. It's very hard, though not yet impossible, for Democrats to win Senate seats from those states today.
To appearances, Coates couldn't imagine why Judge Jackson got only three Republican votes. In fact, as it has become increasingly clear that the Supreme Court now functions as a political body, it has become harder and harder for nominees to attain opposition support.
You'd think that everyone would be familiar with that fact, but Coates was huffing and puffing this day, as she persistently does. In the prcess, cable viewers may have been misled about the way our rapidly failing systems actually work.
One last point:
During her uncomprehending statement, Coates was advancing the tribal script according to which no nominee has ever been more qualified than Judge Jackson—in which she may have been the most qualified nominee ever. This widely voiced claim allows our pitiful blue tribe to marinate even further in our imagined oppression.
Justice Thurgood Marshall was nominated and confirmed in 1967. Was Judge Jackson really more qualified than he was? Was she more qualified than Justice Earl Warren, who was governor of California when he was nominated and confirmed in 1953?
For that matter, was she more qualified than Justice Sotomayor? If so, in what way? Only a tribe caught in a type of moral panic would want to invest itself in such pointless invidious claims.
On CNN, the perpetually irate analyst Coates was cheerleading hard. She was also huffing and puffing in the tribally mandated ways.
For some reason, Coates was caught by surprise—seemed to be uncomprehending—when Jackson received only three Republican votes. In such ways, our "cable news" discourse slides towards the sea as embellishment and Storyline continue to conquer the land.
Interesting factlets: Despite his presence in a red state, Senator Graham voted to confirm Justice Sotomayor. One year later, he voted to confirm Justice Kagan.
Those days seem to be over for Senator Graham. Compare, contrast and explain.
THURSDAY, APRIL 14, 2022
No disservice left behind: Judge Jackson has been universally acclaimed by the people who know her.
This seems to date to her high school days—even to junior high school.
Soon after her nomination by President Biden, the Washington Post published an extensive biographical profile of the nominee. The profile included such content as this, from her years growing up in Miami:
FISHER ET AL (2/25/22): She was a star from junior high school on. Chosen as “mayor” of Palmetto Junior High, just south of Miami, and elected class president of Palmetto High three times, Jackson was voted “most likely to succeed” and “most talented,” according to her high school yearbook...
The keys, according to those who knew her well, were confidence, discipline and a clarion sense of direction seeded and nurtured by her parents.
She also "traveled the high school debate circuit and won a rack of prizes," the Post reporters noted. In part, she stood out for her personality, but also for the aforementioned talents:
FISHER ET AL: People listened because Jackson “had this beaming, energetic, friendly personality and natural charisma,” said Stephen Rosenthal, a close friend who went to school with her from junior high through law school.
At Palmetto and around South Florida, Jackson became “like a living legend in the speech and debate community,” said Rosenthal, now a lawyer in Miami. Friends still recall her soaring renditions of scenes from the plays “Agnes of God” and “Fools.”
“She would do these dramatic interpretations, and you would see the judges and the people in the audience literally cry,” said Persily, now a professor at Stanford Law School. “Then she’d do a humorous interpretation and they’d be laughing. She was just … an incredibly polished speaker.”
Jackson was a standout from these early years on. We add one additional point.
We add a fact which speaks well about all concerned. The young Judge Jackson was persistently hailed and acclaimed by schoolmates who were largely "white:"
FISHER ET AL: In the family’s modest suburban house, Johnny and Ellery kept on their coffee table a book about racism in America, “Faces At the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism,” by Derrick Bell, the first Black professor to win tenure at Harvard Law School. Jackson would stare at the book’s cover, struggling “to reconcile the image of the person, who seemed to be smiling, with the depressing message that the title and subtitle conveyed,” she later recalled.
She and her father spoke often about what was required to both earn that smile and find your way to the top. “As a dark-skinned black girl who was often the only person of color in my class, club, or social environment, my parents knew that it was essential that I develop a sense of my own self-worth that was in no way dependent on what others thought about my abilities,” Jackson said.
At Palmetto High, Jackson encountered an array of students—almost three-fourths White, 16 percent Black and 11 percent Hispanic—but most did not mix much outside their own groups, according to Jackson and several of her friends.
Jackson, though, waded into activities that were heavily dominated by White students. She sang, debated and got involved in theater, even after a drama teacher told her she would not get a role in a play about a White family because she was Black.
Her high school was almost three-fourths white. She was elected class president three times. She was also voted most talented and most likely to succeed.
These facts seem to speak extremely well of everyone involved. They seem to speak well of Jackson's parents, and of Jackson herself.
These facts also seem to speak well of Jackson's high school classmates.
Jackson's parents had attended schools which were segregated by law. Their daughter was attending school in a suburban environment which was heavily "white," but she was being hailed by her teenaged classmates as the most outstanding among them.
It sounds like Jackson's talents, and her personality, were pretty hard to miss. It's still worth noting the fact that her classmates were willing to notice her talents and her personality and openly hail her for them.
In a slightly different world, this could almost be seen as a marker of social progress. That said, we live in a heavily tribalized world, within a tribe which sometimes seems to prefer to see the glass 99 percent empty as opposed to increasingly full.
Within our heavily novelized tribe, it sometimes seems that we prefer to pretend that it's still 1955 and that virtually nothing has changed. We prefer to blow past those Palmetto High kids as we seek to scare and mislead current children increasingly well.
So it was, a propagandist might say, in this part of this recent column by Charles Blow. In it. Blow explains why it's so great that Judge Jackson's nomination to the Supreme Court had been confirmed by the Senate:
BLOW (4/9/22): So many Black girls needed this moment, needed this win, and so many of them could benefit from receiving a letter, from Booker, telling them what he’d told Jackson: You will make your moments on your own merits, but the support and encouragement you receive will flow from your folks. We will have your back.
In fairness, Blow was simply reciting script from our sorry tribe's crabbed Storyline. Black girls (somehow) needed this win, he said. Also, the support they will receive in the future will be coming from their own kind.
Separation tomorrow, separation forever! So the conceptual pendulum has swung within our sorry failed tribe.
In fairness to Blow, he was simply reciting script. Within our sorry, failing tribe, we were expected to treat Judge Jackson's nomination as historic in some essential sense.
We were supposed to pretend that the nation's good, decent "black girls" would finally get to see someone "who looks like them" achieve a triumph for once. We were supposed to pretend that the nation's black girls had never before seen such a thing. In the process, our pitiful, sorry, failing tribe was prepared to blow past this:
Other high-profile wins:
The current vice president of the United States is, in fact, a black woman. (We refer to Kamala Harris.)
Our current ambassador to the United Nation is the redoubtable Linda Thomas-Greenfield. She too is a black woman.
Under President Obama, Loretta Lynch—she's a black woman—served as Attorney General of the United States.
Under President George W. Bush, a black woman served as National Security Adviser (2001-2005), then as Secretary of State (2005-2009). The black woman in question was Condoleezza Rice, each time.
Black girls had never seen a Supreme Court win, but they had seen quite few others. We'll skoip past Oprah and Gwen Ifill and quite a few others.
No black woman had ever served on the Supreme Court, but very few people do. (It's a nine-member body with lifetime appointments.) It isn't obvious, in any way, that black women were somehow being singled out for exclusion from the Court, a point Senator Graham stressed in his initial "shocking" colloquy with Jackson.
It isn't obvious, in any way, that black women have somehow been singled out for exclusion from the Court. No Asian-American of any gender has ever served on the Court. The same is true of Native Americans—the Americans whose ancestors got here first.
No Hispanic male has ever served on the Supreme Court. In fact, very few people serve on the Court, but this nation's good and decent black girls had seen quite a few other high-end wins—except within the crabbed and stupid novelizations to which our dumbfounding, self-pitying tribe is now almost wholly in thrall.
To what extent is our gruesome tribe determined to obliterate the good news about Jackson's high school classmates and the good news which involves those subsequent wins?
As our novelizations proceeded, we kept assuring that nation's black girls that they had to be twice as good—possibly even three times as good—to catch a break within our racist society.
At the thoroughly novelized and racially faux New York Times, Linda Qiu swung into action with a piece of mandated script soon after the massively talented Jackson was confirmed by the Senate.
Qiu took herself to Harvard Law School, where she spoke with eight current students. A bungled statistic was quickly offered, in service to Storyline / script.
We'll start with Qiu's report tomorrow. Assembling the endless pieces of script which rule our tribe is a truly daunting endeavor.
For today, we'll close with the dueling tribal narratives.
On the one side, you have a dimwitted narrative in which black women are found at Harvard Law School only because of "affirmative action"—only because more qualified people have been rejected so they could attend.
On the other hand, you have the narrative our benighted tribe loves to push, in which a black woman has to be two or three times as good—has to be much better than everyone else—to wind up in such elite "spaces."
People like Blow have trafficked that noble lie for a long time now. (For the record, this script suggests that Blow himself is also twice as good!)
As our tribunes have spread such tales, they've also been scaring black kids out of their minds as they toy with elementary facts about police shooting deaths. Also, they've convinced black girls and young black women that they have to be twice as good.
After making one of her trademark statistical errors, Qiu interviewed eight young black women who are currently students at Harvard Law. Unlike Jackson, most of them are "single Harvards." They received their undergraduate degrees at less exalted schools.
Did they have to be twice as good to get accepted at Harvard Law School? Are they students there because more capable applicants got the boot?
We'll guess that neither Storyline is accurate. That said, our national discourse, such as it is, is currently built on tribal Storyline. It's tribal Storyline all the way down, a world of dueling dime novels.
In our view, our own pathetic tribe's devotion to this dimwitted fight has worked extremely poorly for the nation's good, decent black kids. It's also true that we only discuss the double Harvards, the talented tenth. The other black kids can go hang.
Black kids have been scared to death in recent years as we've pimped our braindead novels. In that, and a hundred other ways, such kids have been very poorly served by the transparent phoniness of our self-serving moral panic.
It's hard to believe the extent to which our tribunes are willing to "murder sleep" along with basic journalistic procedure. But we've been misleading the children well, of that there's little doubt.
We've been misleading the children well. We've been misleading ourselves.
Tomorrow, we'll start with that trademark statistical error. This is who we humans are, disconsolate experts insist.
Tomorrow: We'll start with that trademark error
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, 2022
This inspired life: Remarkably, your incomparable Daily Howler keeps banging out those results.
Late last week, then over the weekend, MSNBC went into action catching up on its transcripts. We have no idea why "the slacker channel" decided to take this step, but if the pattern continues this week, we'll be able to show you something Rachel said last night.
For today, we thought we'd share a bit of a puzzlement, but also a pet peeve, concerning the Washington Post's increasingly tabloidized web site.
As we mentioned a few weeks back, the Post continues to publish a conventional print edition. Its online edition often seems to have come from a different publication altogether.
The online edition often ignores high-profile parts of the print edition. Also, the online edition tends to be much dumber and much more tabloidy.
Just consider the never-ending news report—the news report about the tomatoes which grew on the vine.
Sydney Page's news report first appeared on April 7. This morning, six days later, it was still being featured on the front page of the Post's web site.
The report concerns the many tomatoes which grew on the one single vine. The headline reads as shown:
He grew 1,269 tomatoes on a single stem and broke his own world record
In all honesty, it didn't sound like especially crucial stuff. For that reason, we didn't click until today. When madness finally drove us to click, here's how the report began:
PAGE (4/7/22): Douglas Smith is a competitive guy. So when he turned his attention to the vegetable garden behind his home, he committed to it. So much, in fact, that his hobby grew to epic proportions.
Smith tended to his plants and produce until they became colossally outsize, landing him in what he calls “the competitive vegetable scene.”
The British gardener has harvested a nearly 7-pound tomato, a 624-pound pumpkin and a 20-foot-tall sunflower. Recently, though, he has shifted his focus from size to sum. It’s been a grand success.
Twice in a row, Smith broke the Guinness World Record for the most tomatoes grown on a single stem. Originally, he shattered the previous record of 488 tomatoes—which had been in place for more than 10 years—after he grew 839 cherry tomatoes on one stem in September.
On it goes from there. On this Groundhog Day of a morning, the report was sitting there again, featured on the front page of the Post's online edition for the seventh day in a row. Even as basic parts of the print edition are difficult or impossible to find online, the report about the 1,269 tomatoes keeps coming back for more.
Online, the Post seems to be increasingly committed to the trivial and the dumb. In fairness, this practice has dominated mainstream and liberal news orgs over the past twenty years—as, for example, at The Daily Beast and Slate, or all over the "basic cable" dial.
For the record, it was only today that we noticed which division of the Post lays claim to this tomato tale. Incredibly, it comes from the division of the (online) Post which bears this moniker:
Stories about humanity
For the past seven days, the online Post has been offering this tale of INSPIRED LIFE! There's nothing "wrong" with the trivial and somewhat dumb, but after maybe the fifth or sixth day, the postings can start to seem silly and possibly somewhat old.
The Post's weekly Outlook section doesn't get posted online. Front-page reports from the print edition are often quite hard to find online—but this tale of the thousand tomatoes just keeps refusing to go.
All around the mainstream dial, the devotion to dumbness is increasingly strong. No trivial matter gets left behind. So too, in the political realm, when it comes to tribal embellishments and repetitions of Storyline.
Meanwhile, will transcripts appear for last night's shows? If they do, we'll show you what Rachel said about the nature of news reporting from many long years ago.
To be honest, what she said was notably dumb. Suitably inspired, we rubes lapped it up. Please could we have a bit more?
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, 2022
...to ponder the case of Tim Scott: "Is it possible that our imploding national culture has reached an inflection point?"
We turned to the analysts and posed that question after scanning The Atlantic's web site this morning. Starting with the site's featured essay, here are five of the first dozen items to which links were provided:
“There’s No End to the Grief”
COVID is now the third leading cause of death—and therefore the third leading cause of grief—in the United States.
These Dreadful Days
MARISA RENEE LEE
Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid
It’s not just a phase.
Why American Teens Are So Sad
Those titles appear among the dozen essays which top the front page of the magazine's front page. Even worse, we had already read other essays, reports and columns at other major liberal and mainstream sites
To cite one example, we had already read Colbert King's column, in the Washington Post, about Senator Tim Scott (R-SC).
King, who is deeply experienced, tends toward being deeply sober. That said, he has little use for the way Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was treated at her recent confirmation hearings.
Mostly, though, the columnist seems to have little use for Scott:
KING (4/12/22): Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman confirmed to serve on the Supreme Court, has a well-earned place in history. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) also deserves a footnote at the end of her story. The first African American senator to represent a southern state since 1881, Scott voted against Jackson’s elevation to the highest court in the land.
[Scott] will go down in history for what he didn’t say or do when the moment arose.
As the sole Black member in the Senate Republican caucus, Scott stood by as his GOP colleagues harangued, besmirched and badgered a well-qualified, widely respected Black woman with untruthful smears and bad faith attacks. Before Jackson’s confirmation hearing, Scott said he looked forward to “a respectful and thorough hearing process.” But when the bullying got started, Scott went missing.
Later, King refers to "the shocking insults directed [Jackson's] way" by "her attackers." Returning to his assessment of Scott, columnist King went on to offer this:
KING: Jackson was disowned by someone who looks like her and who now claims victimhood for himself.
Referring to the other Republican senator from South Carolina, MSNBC Host Joy Reid tweeted that Scott let Lindsey O. Graham “& the sheriffs dog-walk him” when it came to police reform and is going along with Graham’s “barking-dog racism” on opposing Jackson.
Scott labeled the criticism “vile” and “offensive” for suggesting “that a Black man cannot think for himself. I have to follow somebody else. That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” he said. “It reinforces the liberal elites’ approach to minorities who will not fall in line and do what they tell us to do.”
King is 82 years of age. He has had a high-end career in government, business and journalism.
With a few scripted stumbles along the way, King has tended toward sobriety in his several decades at the Post. In the passage posted above, he is quoting Joy Reid as she aggressively Uncle Toms the black senator who dared to vote against a black nominee to a very high post.
(In recent weeks, Tucker Carlson has returned to ridiculing Reid for the apparently ridiculous episode in which she claimed that her own past homophobic blog posts had surely been written by someone else. In today's climate, Reid's insults are close enough for tribal messaging work, even in King's assessment.)
As we've noted, we had a different reaction to the treatment of Judge Jackson. On balance, we didn't think the questioning was especially "shocking." Beyond that, we were disappointed by the extent to which Jackson repeatedly chose to evade some perfectly straightforward questions.
King doesn't give examples of the ways Jackson was "besmirched with untruthful smears" during the questioning. By the norms of Senate hearings, we wouldn't say, on balance, that Jackson was "bullied" in any obvious way, or that she was subjected to "shocking insults."
"Barking-dog" or otherwise, we didn't think that Graham put any obvious racism on display for Scott to go along with.
That said, we've reached a point, in our tribal messaging wars, where Pretty Much Anything Goes. Our nation, such as it was, has already split (at least) in two.
On balance, it's All Over Now But the Storylines. The more colorful the claims the better!
We can't explain Senator Scott's view of the world. If we lived in South Carolina, we wouldn't be voting for Scott.
That said, we have a different view of Senator Scott that the one Reid spat out in rather typical fashion. We also think that King's new column for the Post, in which he seconds Reid's overt racial insults, is a hundred times more "shocking" than the questioning Jackson endured.
(Do those insults "reinforce the liberal elites’ approach?" It's hard to say Scott has that wrong!)
During the confirmation hearings, Judge Jackson won our support with a superb, apparently extemporaneous statement about the way children should be treated in school. Her own children have attended Georgetown Day, where she sits on the board.
As Senator Booker pointed out, Judge Jackson is a "double Harvard." Our tribal elites tend to worry about the treatment of such people, though we rush to note that this preference is manifestly not Judge Jackson's doing or fault.
Everywhere we've looked in the past few weeks, we've seen a nation imploding. That has nowhere been more true than in the nearly hysterical way our own failing tribe's elites have reacted to the Jackson hearings.
Right from the jump, CNN's haughiest pundit declared the questioning to be "shocking." It was especially "much," this particular "single Princeton" said, that Senator Graham, who is white, had dared to question Jackson.
You simply can't run a nation this way. At this point, our failed tribe barely tries.
We don't know why Scott sees the world as he does. As a matter of fact, we don't know how he sees the world. We don't know to what extent his vote against Judge Jackson was offered in good faith.
We do know this:
King is one of the very few people within the mainstream press who goes out of his way to express concern about low-income urban kids. We're all concerned about the double Harvards, much less so about those dregs of the underclass.
Tomorrow, we'll try to return to our scheduled postings about the world of the double (or triple) Harvards. Within our tribe, we currently leave no affirmation of such people behind. We'll even repeat such stirring defenses as the ones which emerged from Reid.
On the other hand, those low-income kids can go hang in the yard. This is pretty much who we are. It's pretty much who we've been over the past fifty years.
Is this one of the ways we give away votes? Dearest darlings! Of course it is!
Tomorrow: We'll attempt to try
TUESDAY, APRIL 12, 2022
Non-explanation appears: Who or what lost Iowa? Over at New York magazine, Ed Kilgore quite sensibly wants to find out.
Headline included, Kilgore's analysis starts like this. He's asking a very good question:
The Decline and Fall of Iowa Democrats
Not so very long ago, Iowa was a highly competitive battleground state...Iowa Democrats in particular seemed to punch above their weight, given the state’s agrarian heritage and small minority population. From 1988 through 2012, Democrats won six of seven presidential elections in Iowa, and only lost in 2004 by a whisker. In his successful elections in 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama did better in Iowa than he did nationally. Democrats controlled one of two U.S. Senate seats from Iowa for the three decades of Tom Harkin’s time in office, and held the governorship from 1999 to 2011.
But Iowa Democrats have had a hard time since then, thanks to a combination of demographics and human error—probably the former more than the latter.
Indeed, Iowa Dems have gone belly-up since Obama's two victories in the state. In these numbers, you see a somewhat puzzling pattern:
Iowa presidential races, 2000 - 2020
2000: Gore beats Bush by 0.3 points
2004: Bush beats Kerry by 0.7 points
2008: Obama beats McCain by 9.5 points
2012: Obama beats Romney by 5.8 points
2016: Trump beats Clinton by 9.4 points
2020: Trump beats Biden by 8.2 points
In those numbers, you see the situation which Kilgore has described. To wit:
In 2000 and 2004, this was a stone-cold toss-up battleground state. Obama then swept to a pair of fairly easy wins, followed by a reversal to Trump as Iowa went bright red.
It's hard to know how to explain this rapid change in the weather. Annoyingly, it's hard to tag the state as racist, given Obama's two wins.
But good lord! From Obama's win in 2008 to Trump's coronation eight years later, a 19-point reversal occurred! Here's the start of Kilgore's eventual analysis, which strikes us as a bit of a non-explanation:
KILGORE (4/11/22): So what’s the basic problem bedeviling Iowa Democrats? While you can blame this or that setback or mistake, the underlying issue is demographic, as I noted in 2016, when Trump was leading handily in all the Iowa polls:
"Iowa, once a classic blue-leaning battleground state (it went for Obama handily in 2008 and 2012), is moving toward the GOP and particularly Trump because of its high concentration of conservative white working-class voters and its small minority population. To put it another way, Democrats in both presidential and state elections have had to rely in Iowa (as in other Upper Midwestern states) on winning a relatively high percentage of the white vote. The “Obama Coalition” in its full glory just doesn’t exist there. And as Democratic support among white voters—especially evangelicals, and especially non-college-educated people—has gradually eroded, it has gradually made Iowa more hospitable to Republicans …
"Donald Trump with his very blunt appeal to white working-class voters is a custom-made candidate for Iowa in a general election."
According to Kilgore, Iowa is moving toward the GOP—and has done so remarkably quickly—"because of its high concentration of conservative white working-class voters and its small minority population." But the state had that same demographic profile back in 2008 and 2012, when Obama won each time.
Iowa has turned red fast. As he continues, Kilgore says a similar pattern has obtained in Indiana.
Our tribe is always eager to blame such things on the racists. In this case, the Hawkeye State gave Obama two easy wins, complicating any such preferred analysis.
Obama won the state with ease. We ask a very important question:
Since then, what has changed? What explains the way a pro-Obama state turned bright red so fast?
TUESDAY, APRIL 12, 2022
Disinterest in low-income kids: There's absolutely nothing automatically wrong with being a double Harvard.
Indeed, there isn't even anything wrong with being a triple Harvard, which the recent, plainly qualified nominee was and still is.
You aren't required to be "double Harvard," but there's nothing automatically wrong with you if it turns out that you are. One senator introduced the novel term at the recent, highly fraught confirmation hearings for the plainly qualified Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who will soon be sitting on the United States Supreme Court.
That senator was Cory Booker. He apparently felt that the nominee had been poorly treated during the Seante hearings. He made these comments on Monday last, on the day that the Judiciary Committee took its vote:
BOOKER (4/4/22): I am hearing from people—not just black women, but particularly black women—who have been relaying to me their stories about having to come into a room, where you're more qualified than the people who are sitting in judgment of you, and having to endure the absurdities of disrespect that we saw Judge Jackson endure.
How could they disrespect a person like her who has done everything right in her life and in her journey? How?
How qualified do you have to be? Double Harvard.
How qualified do you have to be? Clerking at all levels of the federal judiciary. How qualified do you have to be? Three times confirmed by the Senate in a bipartisan manner.
To watch Senator Booker's fuller statement, you can just click here.
Has Judge Jackson done everything right in her life and in her journey? As far as we know, she pretty much basically has.
She's praised by everyone who knows her. We've heard of exactly zero detractors. There are no detractors at all.
At any rate, Judge Jackson's qualifications were plainly beyond reproach. Indeed, the nominee was "double Harvard," the exercised senator said.
In coining the novel term "double Harvard," Booker was saying that Jackson was a graduate of Harvard College, but also of Harvard Law School.
To that, we'll add the fact that she has served on the Harvard Board of Overseers. On that basis, we'd be willing to call her triple Harvard, without necessarily saying that this striking degree of elite entanglement might not have the occasional minor downside.
Senator Booker saw no downside to his double Harvard tag.
"How qualified do you have to be?" he asked in exasperated, rhetorical fashion as he noted that Judge Jackson had spent seven years, not just the initial four, studying by the banks of the Charles.
For what it's worth, we can't say that any Republicans on the committee ever questioned the idea that Jackson was fully qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.
Republican questioning has been lustily criticized in novelized versions of the hearings which prevail on our liberal tribe's side. That said, whatever you think of the GOP questioning, it tended to explore the possibility that Jackson might have political or social values which would make it hard for her to serve impartially on the Court.
For ourselves, we didn't think the questioning was anywhere near as disrespectful, "shocking" or absurd as our tribe's lore quickly had it. But no one ever challenged the idea that Jackson was fully qualified, though it fell to Booker to characterize her as a "double Harvard."
As it turns out, there seem to be quite a few "double Harvards" out there in these latter days. Judge Jackson had three roommates during her last three undergraduate years. These highly accomplished women have remained her lifelong friends.
As it turns out, all three of those undergraduate roommates are double Harvards too.
We were struck by Booker's use of the term "double Harvard." During his first round of questions, he had been honest enough to note the shortfall in his own qualifications:
BOOKER (3/22/22): You went to this elite law school. I went to a gritty inner-city law school, Yale. So you know this better than me...
Booker isn't a double Harvard. As he was humble enough to admit, he's just a Stanford-and-Yale.
We were struck by Booker's invocation of the term "double Harvard." In our view, where Judge Jackson went to school says a great deal less about her than what's she done in her adult life—in the years since leaving school. But the claim that Jackson's a double Harvard did seem to ring in our ears.
None of this has a thing to do with Judge Jackson's obvious merit. She won our vote with a single remark she tossed off during questioning by Senator Cruz, a Princeton-and-Harvard—a remark about the ways kids should be treated when they show up at school.
When Jackson's kids show up for school, they do so at Georgetown Day, another place where Jackson has sat in the board. That might almost make her a quadruple Harvard in terms of the values at play here.
Judge Jackson won our allegiance with her instant remark about the way kids should be treated at school. She's widely praised by all who know here. Beyond that, she's plainly "well qualified" to serve on the Court, as the American Bar Association's relevant committee found.
That said, Booker's praise for double Harvards strikes us as a point of concern. For starters, it may help us see why we're do despised by so many out there in the land.
Booker's remark about double Harvards struck us in one additional way. It made us think of all the kids in all the low-income urban schools who won't even become single Harvards after they leave public school.
"The lovely shall be choosers," Robert Frost once thoughtfully said. Stanford-Yales tend to choose double Harvards, but what have these people ever done about all those other good decent deserving kids?
Our liberal tribe just spent several weeks wailing about alleged disrespect toward a double Harvard. As we noted all last week, it's very, very, very rare to see us show a bit of interest in all those other good decent kids—in the millions of kids who won't even make it as far as Stanford or Princeton and Yale.
The lovely shall be choosers? With apologies, we thought it might be worth spending another week thinking about the millions of kids our tribe chooses to ignore, even as we tear our hair about alleged disrespect directed at double Harvards.
Tomorrow: Dueling tribal narratives concerning the double Harvards