WEDNESDAY, MAY 11, 2022
Our "anthropology moment:" As we've noted many times, this has been our "anthropology moment."
This has been an anthropology moment for our nation; for our tribe; for each of us as individuals. That said, it can only be our anthropology moment if we're willing and able to see it as such.
When did this "anthropology moment" actually get its start? Decades ago, we'd allege. That said, Lawrence O'Donnell featured a recent anthropology moment on last evening's Last Word.
This anthropology moment was drawn from the May 2 Georgia gubernatorial debate. Last night, O'Donnell played videotape of the moment in question.
The moment was provided by Kandiss Taylor, one of the GOP candidates. In a recent column, Charles Blow described the moment in the manner shown:
BLOW (5/6/22): As a white woman, and mother of three, Taylor is in the demographic that Republicans are trying to attract. But she is also a near-perfect encapsulation of the party’s fringe.
During the debate, she chastised Kemp for not contesting the 2020 results in Georgia, saying: “Donald Trump won. He won. We have a fraudulent pedophile in the White House because Governor Kemp failed.”
Last evening, O'Donnell excoriated Kemp for failing to challenge Taylor's statement in real time, during the debate. But we'd have to say that, in our estimation, it was Taylor who provided us with our latest anthropology moment.
In truth, we've been having an extended "anthropology moment" over the past many years. During this extended moment, we have learned, again and again and again and again, about the actual mental and intellectual functioning of our famously self-impressed species.
Are we really "the rational animal," as we've endlessly claimed? Candidate Taylor's remarkable moment helps us see what we've seen again and again:
On the whole, no! In truth, we actually aren't!
What have we learned in recent years, during our extended moment? For those of us who are willing to see, we've been allowed to see this:
At times of heightened tribal division, there is no claim, however absurd, extreme, or unfounded, that we human beings may not be inclined to accept. This principle was on display again in the course of Taylor's comments.
Last evening, O'Donnell played a slightly longer version of Taylor's claim from the May 2 debate. In the videotape O'Donnell played, Taylor was shown saying this:
TAYLOR (5/2/22): Yes, 2020? Totally, one hundred percent! Donald Trump won. He won. We have a fraudulent pedophile in the White House because Governor Kemp failed.
So spoke Candidate Taylor, creating our latest moment.
Citizens, can we talk? As of May 2, almost eighteen months had passed since the November 2020 election.
During that time, Donald Trump had made no attempt to present anything resembling actual evidence in support of the claim that he actually won the 2020 election—in support of the claim that he had been deprived of victory due to fraudulent conduct.
Donald J. Trump has had plenty of time to lay out his case, but he has never attempted to do so. Nor is there any evidence that President Biden is a pedophile, whatever this gubernatorial candidate may have meant by that remarkable claim.
Are we humans "the rational animal," as we have long proclaimed? In recent years, we have seen, again and again, the weakness of that historic self-definition.
Starting perhaps with the claim that Barack Obama was actually born in Kenya, we've seen vast numbers of voters express belief in the most improbable claims. Those are voters from the red tribe—but then again, we've often behaved in similar ways over here in the blue.
In yesterday's post, we referred to the most recent weekly "conversation" at the New York Times between Gail Collins and Bret Stephens. (Stephens speaks from the center right, Collins from the center left.)
It's easy for us in the blue tribe to see the remarkable intellectual failures of those who reside in the red. But our own tribe's remarkable failures date back at least into the early 1990s—and we'd have to say that Collins played a role in our tribe's striking breakdowns from that earlier era, if only through her silence.
We've been at this site for more than 24 years. Way back in 2005, we became a Columbia Journalism Review cover boy. We even appeared on Crossfire at one point!
In the end, we have one major discovery to share. That discovery goes like this—and yes, it's anthropological:
Simply put, we humans are not "the rational animal" in any essential way. Instead, we humans are the tribal animal—or so major experts have said.
According to these disconsolate anthropologists, we humans are the animals which divides into tribes, then start creating tribal narratives. At such times, our rational or intellectual capacities are strongly inclined to breakdown.
We accept tribal lore with very few questions asked. It's Storyline all the way down.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our blue tribe behaves this way too. This is the remarkable lesson we have to offer after 24 years at this task.
Candidate Taylor provided an anthropology moment—but so did columnist Collins, long ago.
We expect to be more in control of our time in the weeks ahead. As we return to fuller services, we plan to remind you of the remarkable "anthropology moments" our own blue tribe has relentlessly provided.
Our tribe has provided a long string of these moments too! In the end, this is the major finding we have to present.
This finding runs all the way to the academy and to Gödel's theorems too. And dearest readers, make no mistake:
It's an anthropological finding. The finding we're left with is anthropological. It's anthro all the way down.
Tomorrow: Gail and Bret—and Lawrence