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.