Focusing on the (perhaps) very few!


Where tribal identity comes from: We don't know anything about Lord of the Rings, or about Tolkien himself, or about Tolkien's world.

(As we used to enjoy telling Blaine and Patton, we were busy stopping a war when The Brady Bunch was on. So too with those books by this Tolkien fellow!)

That said, Kevin Drum has a sensible question today:

Apparently, a certain, possibly small number of people are complaining about the casting of non-"white" actors in Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings series. Drum says he suspects that the number of people advancing these complaints may be rather small:

DRUM (9/19/22): There's a tiny cadre of [stupenagels] writing about this [diverse casting], an even tinier cadre of committed racists, and a super tiny cadre of people who think they're arguing for being faithful to Tolkien's legacy. But the numbers are so small that it's not clear why anyone is bothering to write about this.

Am I wrong? Are there really hundreds of thousands of these folks around? Where? And if not, why are we bothering to give voice to a minuscule sliver of [lost souls] who have done nothing except spend ten seconds to write a snarky tweet?

Drum's question goes like this: 

Assuming that these complaints are coming from a mere handful of lost souls, why do we bother discussing them?

We don't know how many people are complaining about this casting issue. Drum seems to assume the number is small.

If so, why are some people talking about it? It seemed to us that a possible answer began to surface in these two comments to Drum's post:

COMMENT: As far as I can imagine, there's no way to know [how many such people there are], short of someone spending a bunch of money on a real poll, which seems highly unlikely and pretty pointless. But we know from many other polls, election results and the general news that the country is chock full of racists. So my guess is there are quite a few people [who are upset] about this stuff. Probably the relatively small number of trolls posting about it did a lot to generate a backlash that would not otherwise have existed, but that's the whole modus operandi of the rightwing hate machine. Take something silly that most people wouldn't know about and then leverage existing racism / sexism / homophobia / Islamophobia etc. to make it a controversy.

COMMENT: "Am I wrong? Are there really hundreds of thousands of these folks around? Where?"

While the loudest voices complaining about these are probably smaller than the noise they make, I would put the actual number of people who would have strong opinions along these lines if they were aware of it a lot closer to the number of people who are loyal Trump supporters.

These commenters rushed to say that the country is "chock full of racists." According to the second commenter, the actual number of such racist, sexist, homophobic Islamophobes closely resembles "the number of people who are loyal Trump supporters."

Within our self-assured blue tribe, this core belief forms a key part of tribal group identity. In some cases, observers may focus on complaints of this type as a way of instructing the rest of us rubes about the danger in failing to loathe The Others with sufficient zeal.

According to this wing of tribal thought, there's a Deplorable under every bed! As an example of what we mean, these are the headlines which sit atop the essay in Vox to which Drum refers:

The racist backlash to The Little Mermaid and Lord of The Rings is exhausting and extremely predictable 
Lord of the Rings and The Little Mermaid are just the latest targets of racist fans

According to this school of thought, we can't say "racist" often enough. There's a racist under every bed! Our blue tribe needs to be warned!

(We're exhausted by all this predictable stuff! This is just the latest racist behavior from all the racist fans!)

"The Others are very different from Us, and they're all very bad!" According to the major top experts with whom we consult, belief in this claim involves the oldest of all known human instincts.

Could this explain why some people may be inclined to talk about this? By the basic rules of construction, our answer will have to be yes!

Also, the source could be this: Another commenter offers this theory:

COMMENT: "There's a tiny cadre of [people] writing about this, an even tinier cadre of committed racists, and a super tiny cadre of people who think they're arguing for being faithful to Tolkien's legacy."

And a very large number of bots that are set up to spread & amplify every right-wing grievance.

"To amplify every right-wing grievance!" (And to set our "left-wing" alarm bells off?)

Does Putin like to divide and conquer? If so, the gentleman may be tired by now of amassing all the wins!


  1. Without Kevin Drum, some of us could see this was silly
    from the get go, something largely invented. You know
    what wasn't invented? Charlie Watters saying that Biden
    had made up a story about a raped ten old trying to get
    an abortion. A story that was utterly true.
    That's the kind Bob will not go near. And it's on Fox,
    being reported to Millions of people.

    1. It is more acceptable to let one raped ten year old be denied an abortion or have to travel to another state to have one performed, than it is to permit a million killings of innocent human beings per year.

    2. Is a fetus innocent if it costs its mother her life?

    3. "It is more acceptable to let..." Yes. A fetus isn't a human being, no matter how many times you say it is. Certainly not on par with a 10 year old. Did one Old Testament verse convince you otherwise?

    4. "A fetus isn't a human being..."

      We heard some, on the Internet, saying that neither is a dembot.

      And yet, dear dembot, surgically removing a dembot from body politics would undoubtedly constitute a crime...

    5. "We heard some, on the Internet, saying that neither is a dembot."

      Needless to say, this is another lie Mao is trying to pass off as truth.

    6. Life begins when Matt Gaetz invites them back to his place.

    7. So Mao is a genocidal maniac? Yikes. A simple way to see how absurd equating a fetus with a human being is: imagine a scenario in which you had to choose between saving the life of, say, your 10 year old daughter, or the life of a fetus. You don't have to answer, because we already what the real answer is.


  2. "We don't know how many people are complaining about this casting issue. Drum seems to assume the number is small."

    Oh dear. We have no idea about this particular controversy, but of course your, dear Bob, tribe's brain-dead PC proclivities are nauseating to any normal ordinary humyn being.

    ...but then, of course, this one is among our minor annoyances...

    1. Of those who read Tolkien and are fans, about 97% would complain if they had to sit through the series, and the other 3% would have fallen asleep or refused to watch.

  3. I'm a big fan of both the LOTR books and movies. I haven't watched the new series. I do know that it's been harshly criticized for not being true to Tolkien's vision. The use of minorities may be an aspect may be one aspect of the criticism, but the complaints are a lot more than that.

    1. It's as far from Tolkien's vision as one could possibly get, but as close to the vision of a sub-100 IQ, woke feminist Democrat as one could possibly get, given the clips I've seen, which were laughably atrocious enough to draw an informed conclusion.

    2. Yes, this comment is also pretty far from just a complaint about the races of characters in the new series too.

  4. "In some cases, observers may focus on complaints of this type as a way of instructing the rest of us rubes about the danger in failing to loathe The Others with sufficient zeal."

    So, no matter how many racists there are who object to the casting, it is really the fault of the blue tribe for making a fuss? I don't think so. This is Somerby's refrain -- there is no real racism any more, this is all in the imagination of the blue tribe, ginned up to create controversy and attack the red tribe.

    Meanwhile, there is a way to measure the size of the controversy. Look at the ratings on rotten tomatoes and similar rating sites. Those who complain about the casting are also organizing campaigns to lower the ratings on these shows. The number of people participating in such campaigns will tell you how many people care about it.

    I assume that Somerby is negative about other campaigns of this ilk, including Gamergate (which is no doubt all in women's imaginations) and the complaints about Bridgerton, and the controversies over the new Game of Thrones prequel, as well as the furor when comic book super heroes have been made gay or female (unlike their comic book equivalents). There have been a lot of people participating in these campaigns.

    Somerby should think back about the fan uproar when Star Trek was cancelled (the original show) and the ongoing fan community organized around Firefly. There are truly sizable numbers of people who do care -- enough to support comicons all over the country.

    It makes Somerby and Drum book look like out-of-touch geezers to speculate this way about racism in the geek community, and yes, there is plenty of misogyny too.

  5. White male fans threw a major tantrum when the Hugo Awards starting recognizing novels with black protagonists and female authors. Somerby doesn't get out enough if he doesn't undertand about this phenomenon, but he has a franchise in insisting that racism and sexism don't exist, so what else is he going to say?

  6. How large is geek culture:

    "It’s estimated that nearly 40 per cent of the global population now regularly play video games. In the United States, this number is 65 per cent, with the average age of a self-described “gamer” being 33 years old."

    Also this:

    "We saw this early on and embraced “comic book character origins” before diving deep into top 10 lists. Then by betting the farm on YouTube, our subsequent success helped further popularize this once-niche universe and also became a proxy capturing how Game of Thrones graces the front page of CNN & the MCU dominates the box office.

    What used to be the purview of looked-down-upon nerds is now what drives viewership, on streaming platforms, TV and the box office sale. This is the origin story of that phenomenon.

    As legions of comic book fans grew up to work in the marketing and entertainment fields, slowly but surely geek culture filtered into the mainstream. Roughly a decade ago, anyone who thought that “The Big Bang Theory” would be the #1 show on broadcast TV or that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would become a socio-cultural juggernaut, would have been laughed out of the room (including the boardroom). How things have changed! But how, exactly did this transformation happen?"

    The argument that nobody really cares about this except a handful of people is surely wrong, given the context of geek culture in which this is happening. Somerby wants to call this just blue tribe exaggeration, but there really are a lot of people out there who care about these issues.

    I find myself astonished at the seat-of-the-pants estimation employed by both Somerby and Drum, to dismiss something without any empirical exploration at all. They are talking out of their asses because they are not part of the relevant demographic making noise about LOTR. When you don't have a clue, say "I don't know," not something that pleases your prejudices, such as "there aren't that many racists out there who care about this" when they really don't know what is going on. Somerby's constant scapegoating of liberals is noted.

  7. The right wing has been caught using bots on social media, but Somerby still mocks that suggestion because it has come from a blue tribe commenter. There is new proof of Russia assisting the right in social media campaigns. Why then is Somerby so quick to dismiss this suggestion?

    Ow ow ow, the bias, it stings!!! (And it stinks too.)

  8. Would Amazon and HBO invest so much money in making these big-budget productions of these highly popular series if no one were watching them and no one cared about them? They aren't known for making such mistakes. I think Somerby and Drum and the ones out of step here.

  9. This is what stochastic terrorism looks like. Somerby will probably say this isn't a thing, either:

    "CBS 4 reported that Gainesville police said that 29-year-old David Frick entered the store on Sunday and "started punching the employee." According to police, Frick shouted, "F--k, Joe Biden," during the assault.

    "The victim was in the back getting ice cream out of the freezer when Frick grabbed the victim and hit her in the face multiple times," WCJB noted.

    "After falling, Police say Frick got on top of her and punched her more. A customer tackled Frick to stop the attack, and then he punched the customer in the face and ran out of the store, according to the arrest report," CBS 4 said."

  10. "The Others are very different from Us, and they're all very bad!"

    This is how Somerby puts his thumb on his scales. While he is putting these words into blue tribe mouths, he adds the word "all" before "very bad." Thus he can say that we think every single last one of the others are not only very bad, but there are no exceptions. We don't reason that way. No one does. But some number of the others are going to be very bad -- the disagreement is about how many, not the existence of very bad people. But Somerby doesn't do nuance or probabilityt (because anything is possible and thus everything is possible). So he makes those of us who are liberal or progressive or vote Democratic sound like idiots, because we think ALL of any group must be "very bad," when we have only said that there are some racists who object to the inclusion of racial minorities in LOTR. And that is plainly true -- neither Somerby nor Drum can deny that. But they don't bother investigating how many -- they simply deny the existence of such miscreants, and invent a statement that no one in Drum's comments said, nor would anyone here.

    Way to play fair, Somerby, you asshole.

    1. But liberal commenters here reason that way almost every day.

    2. AnonymousSeptember 16, 2022 at 4:26 PM
      If Democrats are so against divisiveness, why do they tell the truth about the Right’s love of bigotry?

    3. Well Cecilia, they rarely do it on Sunday posts.

    4. Where does it say ALL in the quote? Neither the left is characterized as all, nor the right. Even Cecelia says "rarely" not always. Somerby turned probabilistic thinking into all-or-nothing thinking, unfairly and wrongly.

    5. Oh, I didn't realize you were looking for "all" to be in the quote.

      The second quote from the Drum's commenter referenced above uses the all framework. Which, is originally what Somerby was referencing. He wasn't making the statement himself. He was referencing those two comments. Which would make your comment here somewhere around your 14, 000th misreading. It's almost like you're a trolling happens so often.

    6. None of the comments quoted by Somerby above say that all Trump supporters are racists. So please quote what you think Somerby was referencing. My entire comment was an objection to Somerby including the word "all" when it was absent from those comments. If your goal here were to create confusion, you couldn't do a better job of it. And you have no idea how many comments I've written.

    7. Sorry to make you confused. Sorry you don't understand Somerby's post.

    8. Better trolling please

    9. I see, you thought he was being excessively literal by using the term "all". That makes sense.

    10. His entire point was embodied by the word "all" because otherwise he has no complaint.

    11. Think of his statement like this: "The Others are very different from Us, and they're chock full of bad people!", or "The Others are very different from Us, close to the number of people who are loyal Trump supporters are bad!".

    12. Sorry you misunderstood Somerby's post.

  11. We need to get the government to reign in the drug companies and stop funding wars abroad.

    1. This is the drivel that a Russia bot produces.

  12. Charles Blow said yesterday:

    "And just last week, Biden returned to the vocal, public condemnation of white supremacy — part of his stump speech — after a State of the Union speech this year when he eschewed any mention of racism or white supremacy.

    At a summit convened at the White House last Thursday, Biden condemned white supremacy and other forms of bias, saying, according to The New York Times, “In America, evil will not win, will not prevail.”

    According to The Times, Biden said, “There are those who say if we bring this up, we just divide the country.” He continued, “Bring it up, we silence it instead of remaining silent.”

    As he put it, “We cannot be intimidated by those who are talking about this as somehow that we’re a bunch of wacko liberals.”

    Somerby is trying to portray the left as wacko liberals for even suggesting that there exist racists in this country. But we all know they exist -- even they know it, but they are proud of it. Trying to suppress liberal speech about racism, as Somerby has been doing here today, will not make anti-racist efforts stop, nor will it cause voters to embrace the right. Good, decent people are not racist. Somerby doesn't seem to have figured that out yet. The people like Somerby, who enable white supremacist racism, are no better than those who are blatant in their beliefs, like the people complaining that fictional characters in a made up story cannot be black because it would ruin the fantasy of white supremacist viewers. Somerby is a fool for thinking that censorship of books and media isn't part of Trump's MAGA white supremacist agenda.

  13. Is Trump moving closer to the Qanon right?
    evidence suggests he is.

  14. Two observations:

    Somerby himself voiced objections, in a dozen or so posts, to Greta Gerwig’s new “woke” version of “Little Women” and Sorkin’s new stage version of “To Kill A Mockingbird”. (He hated the former so much that he saw it three times. The second he never saw and vowed never to see it.) “Little Women” is semi-autobiographical and mockingbird is fiction.

    Can Somerby imagine that there are fans of the “Lord of the rings” who are equally interested in that material and equally upset by woke versions of it? The fan base for Tolkien is huge.

    Second observation:

    This culture war anti-woke stuff is constantly discussed by conservative “influencers”, up to and including Tucker Carlson. For example, Brandon Morse, deputy managing editor of RedState, says it's an attempt to embed "social justice politics" into Tolkien's world, and he “wrote an impassioned essay about his misgivings.”

    Also, “influencers like Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh, are using both franchises as an example of Hollywood and liberal “wokeness” run amok.”

    These are not obscure sites. It’s foolish to think that the backlash is limited. So, the real question is, should “liberals” just ignore the relentless objections?

  15. Just a few observations.
    I saw the recent Little Women movie. I liked it. I didn't notice any "wokeness" in it, and didn't understand why TDH felt the need to criticize it - though I don't recall that his issue was its "wokeness."
    I don't understand the objection to black actors having roles in this Netflix Lord of the Rings based tv show. After all, it takes place in a fantasy world and is based on a book, in which, I assume, the characters' skin color is not described. The characters could be green or any other color. In Bridgertown however (popular, but dumb), it seemed discordant to have black actors play English noblemen in a period piece - but so what.
    MH, you always minimize the adverse impact of "wokeness" on the culture and its effect of turning off potential democratic voters. I recently was asked a number of questions as part of the intake with a new doctor. One of the questions was "what gender was I assigned at birth?" A small example of how nuts things have become.

    1. This guy is funny. Not always, but sometimes:

      New Rule: F*** tha Casting Police | Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)

    2. He’s funny when he’s pandering to you pig boy, right? Otherwise, not so much…

    3. Do you not know the answer to your doctor's question? If you do know, then what is the big deal? Why should a doctor have to guess instead of asking?

    4. anon 9:33, I told the assistant who call that I wasn't "assigned" a gender, I had one (male). Genders don't get "assigned" at birth, except in very rare cases, you're simply a boy or a girl.

  16. Both the Right and the Left know Republicans are awful excuses for human beings.
    Would love to see them build on this bipartisanship.