Our blue tribe's scripts today: In recent weeks, we've often thought of the gloomy ending to Paul Simon's widely-acclaimed album, Graceland.

The album appeared in 1986. It interwove two storylines. 

The dominant story concerned the way the people of the world were coming to see their essential similarity through the spread of "world music." Simon's album was, of course, part of that phenomenon. 

The secondary story on the album seems to concern the failure of Simon's first two marriages. 

In Graceland, the album's second song, Simon sings thusly: "My traveling companion in 9 years old, he's the child of my first marriage." 

Simon and the child are trying to reach Elvis Presley's iconic home—and a metaphorical graceland as well. In the album's penultimate song, That Was Your Mother, the singer provides this child with a great gift—he describes the scene when the child's mother and father first set eyes on each other. 

In the song's fictionalized telling, the child's mother and father meet in New Orleans, one of the places where the world's music entered the North American land mass. As they meet, Simon is "standing in the shadow of Clifton Chenier, king of the bayou"—but also, king of one of the musical traditions which arose in that location.

The album presents an ironic interplay of the singer's reflections on these simultaneous, interwoven themes and events. In its final song, The Myth of Fingerprints, the album ends with a downbeat reflection on a particular type of counter-productive human impulse, our drive toward individuation.

The album's final lyric goes like this:

"That's way we must learn to live alone." 

At least on the individual level, we're strongly inclined to tear ourselves apart—or at least, so Simon said. Within the album's wider context, that remains true even as we come to see and appreciate our vast global similarities as one human species. 

(Joseph's life was lived "Under African Skies"—but, within that very song, it's mirrored by Linda Ronstadt's!)

We've often thought of that album's downbeat final lyric in recent weeks and months. That lyric tends to pop into our heads when we see our own blue tribe insist on finding ways to perform the prehistoric task of otherization. 

It's an ancient human impulse, one we humans can't seem to quit. Our blue tribe keeps performing this function as we recite our tribe's sacred scripts.

We thought of that line as we read the gloomy, newly mandated headline in the Washington Post this weekend:

These Native Americans focus on family amid Thanksgiving’s dark history

As a matter of tribal loyalty, we're now expected to focus on that (extremely old) "dark history." For background, see yesterday's report.

We also thought of that downbeat line when we read Professor Chute's new essay in The Atlantic:

What makes the book controversial is exactly what makes it valuable.

Professor Chute is very high end, and she's an expert on comics. As such, she'd be easy to parody, whether her work would actually deserve such treatment or not. 

She herself may be inclined to parody / stereotype Others. Almost a whole year later, she's still insisting on this:

CHUTE (11/21/22): It’s true that Spiegelman “speaks”—and draws—the unspeakable in Maus. In black line art, it presents two narratives: the story of Spiegelman’s father, Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust and immigrated to the United States in 1951 with his wife, Anja, also a survivor, and their toddler, Art—and the story of the cartoonist son, as an adult, soliciting his father’s testimony. It is taught routinely in high school, college, and graduate school. It is, in addition, taught to many middle-school students. This came to wide attention this past January, when Maus was banned from an eighth-grade English-language-arts curriculum by the McMinn County, Tennessee, school board. The ban became a global news story; Maus sold out on Amazon.

But the ban didn’t surprise me. A new wave of politically driven censorship, particularly one motivated by a discomfort with discussions of America’s history of slavery, has grown in the Trump and post-Trump years. And Maus’s frank visual depiction of horrors, the way it acts as a form of witness to dehumanization and genocide, is controversial. Of course, that confrontation with horror is exactly what makes it valuable. 


When the book emerged as a fresh target in the culture wars this year, the school board’s official, and flimsy, reasons for removing it from the curriculum amplified the outrage. The board cited bad language (such as “bitch” and “goddamn”) and nudity (specifically, one small image of Spiegelman’s mother, drawn in human form, in the bathtub after taking her own life, a profoundly troubling visual on which to pin the charge of obscenity). These aspects, while perhaps not ideal for an eighth-grade audience, feel beside the point in a narrative that bears witness to genocide.

One school board in one location didn't agree with this exalted professor's assessment about the suitability of the unspeakable for their district's middle schoolers. In the face of an outrage like that, the professor is eager to keep telling us what that means about the ways of the other tribe. 

There's no room for disagreement! What "feels beside the point" to this very high-end professor must feel that same way to everyone else.

If even one school board disagrees, The Others must be otherized—and The Others are all alike. The professor will rant about "censorship" and "banned books" when one "controversial" book is replaced in one district's lengthy middle-school curriculum about the Holocaust.

Also yesterday, we thought of the Graceland album's closing line when we read an instant opinion column in the Washington Post. 

Why would someone enter a bar and kill five people? Scripted within an inch of his life, Brian Broome instantly knew:

The Colorado massacre cannot be blamed on mental illness. It’s rooted in hate.

So read the headline on the column. In the actual column, the columnist offered this:

BROOME (11/21/22): You know who will get the blame for Colorado Springs, right? Each time these things happen, the right-wing go-to is to blame “mental illness.” That’s what some thought drove Robert Bowers to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh to kill 11 human beings. That’s what others believed made Dylann Roof stroll into a Black church in Charleston, S.C., to murder nine human beings. And, sooner or later, conservatives will say it was “mental illness” that drove this newest killer of the marginalized to commit the latest atrocity.

But are we ever going to ask why so many supposedly mentally ill people seem to carry right-wing talking points along with their AR-15s?

The Others keep blaming mental illness at such moments. As a result, people within our own blue tribe must insist that mental illness can't be the cause of such events. 

The real cause has to be hate—but can hate be rooted in mental illness? Please don't ask us questions like that when we're shouting our sacred scripts! 

(Also, please don't publish medical specialists. Publish script-readers like Broome!)

The Post's report about Thanksgiving involves a new mandated script. There's more to discuss within that report, which was written by a good, decent person who's six months out of college.

Tomorrow, we may be able to return to that new mandated script. For today, we'll only say this—the report seemed to provide glimmers and intimations of "why we must live alone."

Along the way, these instant script-readings remind us of two of Kevin Drum's recent points. Why do centrist voters drift away from our tribe's wise advice? 

They don't like the way we ape those professors, and they don't like the way we call everyone else certain types of names!

Tomorrow: A holiday's "dark" script


  1. It is sufficient to discuss individualism vs collectivism without distoring the intended meanings of Paul Simon's work. It isn't as if the existence of the song adds any weight to Somerby's arguments. The lyrics have been interpreted as referring to anything from an anti-apartheid message to an anti-capitalistic anthem. There is no reason to assume Somerby knows any more about Simon's intentions than any other internet writer. This is at most a rhetorical device, a literary prompt along the lines of "give me 1000 words on the myth of fingerprints. The album itself has been called one of the best ever produced.

    That's why when Somerby segues from discssing the album to bashing the blue tribe, it is offensive that he uses this record to do so. Whatever Simon meant, I doubt he intended his music to be used by a partisan hack like Somerby to attack liberals by claiming that the blue tribe invented "otherization". This is especially offensive after the red tribe who Somerby defends just villainized gays to the point of another mass shooting, which Republicans gloated over, much as they did Paul Pelosi's attack with a hammer. But the blue tribe is to blame, says Somerby.

    I doubt Paul Simon would agree with or condone the use Somerby makes of his music today.

    There is a bit of irony. Just as Somerby "borrows" Simon's lyrics to use for his own purposes, Simon is accused of "borrowing" a riff by Los Lobos to create Myth of Fingerprints. So what goes around, comes around. But Republicans do seem to be believe that whatever they want to take should be theirs without permission, judging by Trump's theft of campaign music, imitated by Kari Lake. I do not understand why being Republican means you have no respect for intellectual property rights.

    1. I'm just glad Bob leaves Simon's first album alone because I still think that's his best one.

    2. I used to like The Lady with the Lap Dog, but it is ruined for me now.

      It is interesting how different my take on My Antonia is from Somerby's. I think people should listen to Graceland for themselves and see what they take from it.

    3. Paul Simon was accused of violating the sanctions against the apartheid state of South Africa to make the album. He is said to have brought black South African music to the world, but the musicians themselves complained that their music didn't need to be "discovered" by a white musician to be important. Another black musician complained that he might have helped 30 musicians but he undermined the solidarity of the sanctions meant to change the apartheid regime for all.

      It is hard to find Somerby's deep meanings in the lyrics of a musician whose main commitment is to his own creative work.

    4. Paul Simon writes bland music for White people. Whatever.

      In the early 70s Paul Simon wrote a boring and bland song, Take Me to the Mardi Gras, although it does have a few seconds of very good acoustic guitar picking for the first 10 seconds. This song was covered by a jazz musician a couple years later, the cover was also unremarkable, except the beginning has this amazing bit of marching band music, drums and triangle, that is amazing yet has no relation to the rest of the song, just sort thrown in there. Everyone loves this part, it has been sampled many times over the years, meanwhile, no one remembers the Paul Simon version, why would they?

    5. Simon met Carrie Fisher at Mardi Gras, which is why the song is important and nostalgic. If you don’t know who she was, go ask your mama. It is hard to relate to nostalgia when you are still in your teens.

  2. "newly mandated headline"

    What would a newspaper look like without headlines? You would have to read every story to determine whether you wanted to read that story.

    Who is mandating particular headlines? Editors, obviously. But Somerby is actually complaining because of the content of the story, not because it has a headline. Editors also choose what appears in the paper and they assign stories to writers. But Somerby is actually complaining because a story about Native Americans -- the other half of the attendees at those first Thanksgiving dinners -- were given visibility in a newspaper for Americans. But wait, aren't Native Americans "Americans" too? Of course they are. So why does Somerby object to their having something to say about Thanksgiving? Largely because their views on the holiday might be different than his. And different doesn't exist, according to the myth of fingerprints, except when it comes to traditions and memories of celebration with family. Then the differences matter, at least to Somerby. Or maybe he thinks the Indians should all forgive and forget the atrocities of our shared history, but that is easy to say when those atrocities didn't happen to you and yours.

    I imagine the Native American families sitting around their turkey and talking about the things they are grateful for -- such as that white people have decided to leave them alone on their assigned lands for a while, while they focus on persecuting gays and teachers. Somerby says, "don't invite those Indians to our feast -- they are such a downer."

  3. “One school board in one location”


    “Not just ‘Maus’: A Missouri school district removed several Holocaust history books, too”

    “Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” along with six books about the Holocaust geared toward young readers, are among the hundreds of books that a handful of school districts in Missouri have reportedly removed from their shelves since the start of this school year.”

    Good to know Somerby supports book banning when it is (or isn’t, in this case) just one school district in Tennessee (but also several in Missouri). Also good to know that he doesn’t notice the current trend of book banning around the country.

    1. Really. really stupid and ugly logic applied in this comment. Borderline insane.

    2. Show me the logic for a claim he supports book banning.

    3. Here you are, 12:27:

      You might start by reading this Somerby post:

      “It can't make any difference, but...”

      He says:

      “Parents haven't "banned a book" if they decide that some book isn't right for their son or daughter.”

      And: “school boards haven't "banned a book" if they decide that some book isn't appropriate for their district's children.”

      He redefines banning: “A given school board may decide that the content of some book is inappropriate for their district's curriculum or for their school libraries.”

      But that is exactly what was done in Tennessee and Missouri with “Maus.”

      To speak in non-euphemistic language: It has been banned.

      He supports that because he believes children belong to their parents, and that parents (and school boards) therefore have a right to direct (or dictate) their children’s education, up to and including removing books from the curriculum and from libraries, ie banning them.

      His notion that this one book in this one Tennessee district (which is not factually correct, as I pointed out) is an isolated case of book banning is erroneous. It is a coordinated nationwide trend that Republicans are using to try to win elections.

    4. That is very petty and ugly reasoning. You're very proud to find Maus also banned in Missouri though aren't you? That doesn't make it an isolated incident!! BWAHAHAHHAJJAHAHAH

    5. 1:11:
      Not a rebuttal. I did my due diligence by showing that Somerby clearly supports the removal of books from curricula and libraries. So fuck off.

    6. This part, in which Somerby complains that the school district banning Maus was "otherized" by the professor (who didn't do that, by the way).

      "One school board in one location didn't agree with this exalted professor's assessment about the suitability of the unspeakable for their district's middle schoolers. In the face of an outrage like that, the professor is eager to keep telling us what that means about the ways of the other tribe.

      There's no room for disagreement! What "feels beside the point" to this very high-end professor must feel that same way to everyone else.

      If even one school board disagrees, The Others must be otherized—and The Others are all alike. The professor will rant about "censorship" and "banned books" when one "controversial" book is replaced in one district's lengthy middle-school curriculum about the Holocaust."

      Somerby is clearly defending the actions of the school board against the criticism of the professor, who is mainly focused on the merits of maus and not name-calling or "otherizing" the school board.

      When someone actively defends an action, it is fair to say that they support it.

    7. Clearly? Really? You two really love to use the word clearly, don't you? ;)

      From this essay, you take that the author is "clearly supporting" the coordinated Nationwide Republican trend of book banning?

      You have to laugh at the flat out stupidity.

    8. He keeps writing essays defending book banning and attacking critics of it.

      You seem to think that calling some stupid is an argument. It isn't. Simple denial of the obvious is not an argument either.

    9. Ok. Sounds good. Thanks for explaining your "reasoning".

    10. It ridiculous that it’s tolerable to allow college students to shout down speakers over differences in political views, but parents and educators are supposed to be open to children being exposed to things involving violence, and adult situations.

      No one is keeping parents from buying Maus or students from studying the Holocaust in higher grades.

      It’s not censorship to guard the sensibilities of children.

      It’s everyone’s job.

    11. Cecelia: Of course it’s censorship. It’s also banning books. You don’t make a good argument by redefining terms.

      The idea that certain things should be banned or censored where children are concerned is not an outlandish concept.

    12. The question, for all the very “moral” right wingers here, is whether “Maus” is truly inappropriate for kids, for example. What is wrong in arguing that it it should be taught?

      Where do you draw the line when parents’ interests conflict?

      Or is a book containing a gay relationship off limits, keeping in mind that some kids have gay parents?

      What about a mixed race relationship?

      What about a biography of Roy Moore?

    13. What is wrong in arguing that it it should be taught?

      The problem is that it is taught. The problem is that it's an invented, fake problem. It was banned by one small rural school and kind of banned by two school districts in suburban St Louis. It's a fabricated, non-issue designed to excite and propagandize gullible, arrogant dupes.

    14. Students are not "allowed" much less "taught" to shout down speakers. They are taught civil discussion in the classroom. What they do outside it, is their choice, not what professors want them to do.

      The use of Maus in many classrooms nationwide suggests that it is not traumatizing for most children and should be considered age-appropriate, even if dealing with death and atrocity. The Diary of Anne Frank is used with that same age group. I don't see this as a matter of protecting children's sensibilities but of political censorship by people who do not want the holocaust to be taught at all. That is a common view on the extreme right and part of white supremacist and anti-semitic dogma. Recall that Kyrie Irving's film was claiming that the holocaust was a myth created by Jews, not a historical event. The reason why these holocaust books were being removed involves more than children being upset by them. Censoring books about the holocaust to avoid upsetting anti-semites and white supremacists is wrong, in my opinion, and not good for the wider community, much less children who depend on schools to tell them what is true. Avoiding controversy by banning controversial books doesn't help children, who still need a guide to what is true and what is not. Holocaust denial is alternative reality and not factually true, so it should not be given respect by banning the books that contradict it.

    15. “ It was banned by one small rural school and kind of banned by two school districts in suburban St Louis.”

      And thus we’re back to the avoidance of acknowledging that book banning is going on all over the country. Your notion that it is a fake problem would come as a surprise to Glen Youngkin. And the Tennessee school board, for that matter. Can’t you even make coherent arguments, 3:50?

    16. These are not isolated incidents, but part of a nationwide right wing campaign, as described here:

    17. mh, I’m not redefining the word “censorship”.

      It’s not censorship to decide that certain things and matters are inappropriate for minors, anymore than it is curtailing their Constitutional freedom by not allowing them to vote or to run for office. That is the natural and necessary response to the fact that they are kids and must protected because of that fact.

    18. Banning Maus is not happening all over the country or in any significant manner whatsoever.

    19. Not for lack of trying:

    20. Cecelia, we do not have codified standard for what children may do, other than voting, military service and driving, signing contracts and working at paid jobs, buying cigarettes and alcohol and certain drugs. These restrictions of their activities are not censorship.

      But, when you limit a child's access to books, movies, TV or other media, yes, it is censorship, by definition. And censorship can apply to adults too.

      censorship definition: "the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security"

      Society has not always protected children in the way you are suggesting is "natural and necessary". As recently as the mid 1800s, children worked in factories along with adults, 12-14 hour days, living in dormitories. They started apprenticeships at age 10-12 becoming slaves to a master in order to learn a trade. They heard rough language and saw sex without censorship, even in their own homes, where families often slept in one room together. They were allowed to drink alcohol. They often married at puberty. Many were not literate before the first laws requiring school attendance (in 1852 MA in the US). They were not supervised at play, if they did engage in play. Kids took care of younger kids in the home. Any adult could chastise or order about a child. The entire concept of childhood has changed radically in the 20th century, and again in the 21st. Now kids are not allowed to walk to the corner park without supervision and no one is permitted to discipline another parent's child. The unprotected version of childhood existed through all of Western history up to the 1900s. Animal cruelty was prohibited by law before there were any child welfare laws.

      So, your ideas about that naturalness and necessity of protecting children are quaint. I wouldn't want to go back to previous times, but on the other hand, calling something natural or necessary that has been done differently for so much of history, is just wrong. Read some English literature (Dickens or Jane Eyre) and see how harshly children were treated in school, not that long ago.

    21. mh, there’s nothing wrong with debating these things. That’s a worthwhile thing to do.

      However, that’s not exactly the open approach that has been taken toward the matter via the rhetoric here. Nor were school boards pleased when parents spoke their minds.

      There is nothing wrong with people of different races dating and marrying. However, it is the job of schools to stress that point, rather than to emphasize the more universal principle of equality?

      That’s a debate to be decided in school districts as to grade level, etc.

      A public school system is different from a private one in that it comes with the responsibility to accommodate average sensibilities (and most average people are not racists) “Most people” are captive to having to send their kids to public schools, and that fact should have added weight in decision making.

    22. Some religions do not believe in Halloween. Should all kids in the class be prohibited from celebrating that Holiday because of a single child? No decorations, no costumes at school, no candy sharing, no art projects involving carved pumpkins?

      You seem to be saying that the activities of all kids should be restricted by what the most extreme family will tolerate.

    23. You seem to be stupid.

    24. Anyonymouse 4:34pm, my ideas are not quaint. That word would be better suited for how children fared in the past, rather than for how civilized people have come to treat minors in ways that are obviously better, obviously necessary, and obviously an advancement.

    25. Anonymouse 4:41pm, how momentous an issue is that in public schools?

    26. Not obviously necessary, since generations grew up under much harsher conditions, raising families, doing important work, some becoming famous. Studies of corporal (physical) punishment, which used to be routine at school and home, show that when children grow up in a culture where such treatment is normal and expected, they are not harmed by it psychologically. When it is an exception to how other kids are treated, then it is interpreted as abusive and can by psychologically harmful. So, context matters.

      Ask any child how important Halloween is to them. YOU are the one who suggested that because some people have no other options than public school, such schools should give "extra weight in discussions" to their needs. Banning one book for ALL kids because a single parent objects is akin to banning Halloween for ALL kids because a single parent objects. That is what happened with Beloved.

    27. I don't think that everything parents do today, compared to 200 years ago, is necessarily better. For example, restricting kids from exploring their neighborhoods out of fear of stranger-danger is not better. Kids had a lot more independence earlier and that fosters self-confidence and competence. Read Tom Sawyer again. It is amazing the freedom and the things he was allowed to do. Kids have lost that.

    28. I was allowed to read any book in the adult library, with my own adult library card, in 5th grade. That was a good thing.

    29. So, to summarize. Republicans are racists And Somerby advocates banning books. Why? Because Maus was banned in two tiny school districts.

    30. Cecelia and the other right winger, first things first, all school boards have policies that let the student and/or parent opt out of assigned reading that they are uncomfortable with - this includes the famous VA school district.

      The VA case is important, because it makes clear that right wingers are only using this issue as a weapon to motivate voters.

      Theses same books and opt out policies have been around for decades, but only recently has it become an issue as right wingers have discovered they can weaponize it to own the libs and thus motivate their voters.

      With no apparent self awareness, these same right wingers then protest that non right wingers are using this issue for performative virtue bla bla bla nonsense. Yet it is in fact the right wingers that have created this issue for the sole purpose of weaponization.

      For the right winger that is TODAY excessively literal, and can not understand how ideas or agendas can be conveyed other than being openly straightforward, first of all this is Somerby's famous coy MO, secondly I refer to the architecture of modern day right wing politics, Lee Atwater (rough paraphrasing):

      "You start out in earlier days saying 'nigger nigger nigger', but now you cant say that, now you have to get more abstract so you start saying things like school busing and tax cuts etc but the end result is the same, it hurts black people more"

      So fuck you, you slimy piece of shit right winger.

    31. And Beloved. Why not read that Guardian link before saying stupid things? And it wasn’t just Maus but 100 holocaust books.

    32. I read the Guardian link and it did not mention Maus or the Holocaust.

    33. So you feel that a tiny school district in Virginia banned Maus as a part of an enormous right-wing conspiracy to sow racial discord and your evidence for believing that is something Lee Atwater once said?

      I'm sorry mh but you're stupid.

    34. Analysis of the gubernatorial election in VA shows that the book banning issue was a major factor in how the election went (it was not over Maus, stupid people really should avoid calling others stupid).

      This issue is discussed daily on Fox News, it is a defining issue for right wingers of late.

      Your analysis is inaccurate, yet instead of opening yourself up to edification, you are circling the wagons and spewing hateful nonsense.

      It is not a right wing "conspiracy" to promote racism, it is foundational to it's movement.

    35. So we agree the banning of the Maus book is not a part of the supposedly influential and scary book banning issue of which you speak.

    36. You feel like the banning of the Mais book is a part of a conspiracy and the banning issue that you mentioned? You feel like the banning of the Moss book says something about Republicans?

    37. I said what I meant and do not want to reduce it down to your 10-words-or-less understanding.

    38. This is what twitter does to young minds.

    39. "One school board in one location didn't agree with this exalted professor's assessment about the suitability of the unspeakable for their district's middle schoolers. In the face of an outrage like that, the professor is eager to keep telling us what that means about the ways of the other tribe."

      You and the professor that is. Somerby is just pointing out your ignorance.

      The Guardian link didn't mention Maus or the Holocaust.

    40. It mentioned nationwide Republican efforts to attack schools and get lists of books banned, funded by dark money from Republican donors.

    41. It makes no mention of dark money at all. I'm sorry but you are a stupid,. gullible partisan who constantly misstates and overstates simple issues. No wonder you have a mad obsession with Somerby.

    42. Powerful charlatans live for people like you who easily swallow non-issues like a secret Republican book banning effort. You feed the machine baby. You're God's gift to the oligarchy. Sleep tight.

    43. You’re convincing no one here, 7:45.

      “The path to save the nation is very simple — it’s going to go through the school boards,”

      —Steve Bannon, MAGA guru,

      You’re the one kowtowing to powerful charlatans, asshole.

    44. Oh my God - the powerful Republican figure Steve Bannon said that???!!?? So scary! He must be using all his power and influence in the Republican party to initiate all the scary book bannings you mention! Starting with Maus in a Tennessee school district from a county with 50 thousand people total! It's a frightening development and SO SO scary!!!! I guess also that quote proves Somerby does supports book banning! ;)

      How long are you going to play the god-damned fool mh?

    45. Certainly parents should make the final decision on how their children are policed, and not leave it up to "big government".

    46. 6:30,
      Even a standard-issue Right-wing bigot, like Steve Bannon, would agree.

  4. "Professor Chute is very high end, and she's an expert on comics. As such, she'd be easy to parody, whether her work would actually deserve such treatment or not."


    There is a field of study called Popular Culture with real professors and a literature and serious thinking. Somerby admits that and yet he still thinks this FEMALE professor would be easy to parody? On what basis? Comics are so serious that grown men write and draw them, and I've heard, even read them. There is a famous Comic Museum in Brussels that existed before DC/Marvel worlds. But Somerby thinks this woman would be EASY to parody.

    This is what bigotry looks like. There are grown men who collect toy trains, but Somerby thinks this woman should be mocked for studying comics seriously for their role in human society. And he says this after a lengthy seemingly serious essay about a rock song.

  5. "didn't agree with this exalted professor's assessment about the suitability"

    Somerby uses the word "exalted" to disparage this professor for having a different opinion than the red tribe members Somerby now defends. She is not claiming any special status and she appears to be getting less than a fair hearing by Somerby, who ignores her actual arguments to object that she is challenging the red tribe who is banning such work. How dare she? Maybe because she is exalted, no? No. Somerby reacts this way because he doesn't recognize the expertise of anyone who has devoted a career to studying what comics are for, often dealing with controversial topics.

    It is as if Somerby holds the opinions of know-nothing bigots as equal to those of an expert on comics in this situation. But is that valid? In one sense everyone has an opinion and is entitled to hold and express it, but does that make everyone's opinions equally informed and valid? I don't think so. The work that has gone into an informed opinion based on expertise deserves some respect to. So when a comic expert says something, she should be listened to and not "parodied" or denigrated, as Somerby does here. I would take school board members as experts on their children and their community, but not as experts on whether comics are bad for kids or have no value in a curriculum.

    And then there is the issue of holocaust denial. It strikes me as wrong to participate in keeping info about the holocaust from children during a time when denying the holocaust is part of anti-semitism and white supremacism. I would suspect whether the motives of school board members might reflect such extremist viewpoints and worry about their influence on whole schools full of kids. This is especially a concern when adults can keep their own kids out of lessons they do not want them to experience, but these folks are trying to define the experience of all kids under their purview. In that case, they should have better reasons than a cartoon rat's nudity, and evidence to back their opinions up, as this professor DOES have and these school board members DO NOT have.

    1. It’s very simple: whenever a “liberal” professor criticizes “conservatives”, that professor is automatically a cosseted contemptuous elitist.

      If the liberal professor agrees with “conservatives”, that professor will never be mentioned.

      If any “conservative” professor criticizes “conservatives”, that professor will either not be mentioned, or will be said to be a member of the “blue tribe.”

      Surely, there must be “conservative” professors who do not support the banning of books, or who wish to tell the true story of Native Americans?

  6. “people within our own blue tribe must insist that mental illness can't be the cause of such events.”

    And the red tribe always insists that mental illness exists in a magical vacuum, where the society’s discourse has no effect.

    Somerby just showed that the headline didn’t match the content of Broome’s article. Broome did not state that “The Colorado massacre cannot be blamed on mental illness.” His central question was “are we ever going to ask why so many supposedly mentally ill people seem to carry right-wing talking points along with their AR-15s?”

    Good to know that Somerby feels that our screwed up discourse cannot possibly have any effect on the targets chosen by (supposedly) mentally ill people.

    Side note: is Somerby aware that anti LGBTQ tweets by people like MT Greene or Lauren Boebert have been viewed millions of times? This seems far more influential than Broome.

    After trashing Nicolle Wallace the other day for her (former) anti-same sex marriage stance, the least Somerby could do is acknowledge the widespread hate-mongering being spread by official members of the GOP.

  7. "There's more to discuss within that report, which was written by a good, decent person who's six months out of college."

    It is hugely annoying when Somerby makes these kinds of remarks. Whatever criticisms he has of that report have nothing whatsoever to do with whether the author is good or decent, or when she graduated from college.

    It is lazy to rely on ad hominems instead of actual arguments about whatever bugs him about the article, beyond the fact that it was written in the first place. Why should Native Americans have any opinions about Thanksgiving, Somerby seems to ask.

  8. “As a matter of tribal loyalty, we're now expected to focus on that (extremely old) "dark history."”

    “Tribal loyalty” = telling the historical truth to adult readers of the Washington Post.

    (And it’s extremely old to boot. That should consign it to the dustbin of history, right?)

    1. And yet it isn't old to the Native Americans, who in 1970 (which is fairly recent) designated Thanksgiving as a National Day of Mourning, in recognition of their own history encountering immigrants back in 1621.

      It seems odd to me that Indians, who do live in tribes, are left out of Somerby's red/blue formulation when they are directly concerned by how Thanksgiving is commemorated.

  9. "What "feels beside the point" to this very high-end professor must feel that same way to everyone else."

    Actually, this is true.

    If you show a group of people, individually, a drawing of a mouse in a bathtub who has obviously committed suicide and ask them to describe what they see, most of those people would talk about the salient meaning, the suicide. If someone instead was focused on the mouse's nudity, that would be unusual, psychologically relevant, and atypical. It might represent a defense mechanism to avoid seeing the suicide (for personal reasons), or an obsession with nudity or sexuality that caused someone to see it even in irrelevant details and in a mouse. It would not be what most people would mention.

    The question then becomes whether the deviance of a school board member should dictate what a wide group of students are allowed to read. I think it shouldn't. By my point is that this professor probably knows more about such things than the school board does. And when she says that they are focused on an extraneous detail, she is correct, and calling her derogatory names like "high end" which imply she is elitist, changes nothing about what most people would think about the mouse tit. Most would not even notice it. And if the mouse were wearing clothing, they would notice and wonder why a mouse would wear clothes in the bath tub (because that would be odd).

    The professor might also hypothesize that it was the intent of the author to shock, because suicide is inherently shocking, but the added nudity shows the mouse's vulnerability and is invasive and conveys more than just a knee-jerk "this is sexual" response. A school board member would have to be dumb as a rock to not recognize the instrumental purpose of that nudity to the author. But Somerby thinks this high-end professor should be parodied because she is saying things he disagrees with.

  10. Thanksgiving is now being treated as another culture war issue, like the war against Christmas, and Somerby joins the red side to attack liberals, instead of recognizing that this is no more a threat to our yearly Turkey Day than any of these other ginned up right-wing complaints.

    Somerby is being played when he reacts in this Fox Newsy faux-outraged way, and he wants us to get upset with him instead of being understanding of those other others, the Native Americans, on a day that concerns them too.

  11. Today Somerby combines rehashed elements from 3 previous essays plus some professor-bashing of Dr. Chute, but where is his description of Mrs. E, promised in yesterday's teaser?

  12. "The Others keep blaming mental illness at such moments. As a result, people within our own blue tribe must insist that mental illness can't be the cause of such events."

    People on the left are not insisting that mental illness can't be the cause of such events as a knee-jerk reaction to the others. We are asking that the others consider other causes that contribute to such crimes, such as access to guns (which mentally ill people should be find so easy to obtain, especially in places with red-flag laws, like Colorado Springs), and how hate speech determines the choice of targets, and what precipitates such attacks at a specific time and place.

    Some of the shooters are clearly schizophrenic or otherwise mentally ill, but many are not in a diagnosable sense. I've seen some calls for not labeling a shooter mentally ill without an actual medical diagnosis, and I think that would be a better approach. First, it would reduce the stigmatization of actual mentally ill people, only 5% of whom ever commit any violence, and then it is against therapists or family, not the public. Second, it would permit people to focus on what might be the other contributing causes and influences on such violence, so that these can be dealt with. I think that is a step in the right direction and I agree with the Denver Post editorial.

    1. typo correction: "should not be finding so easy to obtain"

    2. Somerby, like right wingers, wants to reduce the argument to an either/or proposition, and he will distort liberal arguments like Broome’s in order to do it.

    3. The Right means these incidents are not caused by guns, which Republicans will do nothing about, but actually caused by the nations mental heath crisis, which Republicans will do nothing about.

  13. "Why do centrist voters drift away from our tribe's wise advice? "

    More bait and switch. Those Others who persecute LGBTQ+ people and ban Maus and complain that the Indians have ruined Thanksgiving are not "centrists." They are right wing. Somerby starts with red tribe issues and then returns to Drum's list of centrist complaints, but the MAGA extremists who are attacking school curricula as a political issue are not centrists of either party. But perhaps the centrists are a bit more like the right wing than I had thought.

    For example, why do I get the feeling that the 6 other items on Drum's list are just window-dressing to accompany the main complaint, #7, which is that people don't like being called racist? That item 7 sticks out like a sore thumb, in terms of not being like the others, personal, not issue related. This is an ongoing theme with both Drum and Somerby.

    On April 12, 2022, Kevin Drum listed several "culture war issues" and suggested that Democrats dial down their rhetoric. These were: (1) Defund the police, (2) CRT, (3) Sex ed in lower grades, (4) 1/6 Commission, (5) Voting laws, (6) Afghanistan withdrawal, (7) Trans issues.

    My sense again is that it is the 1/6 Commission that is the real issue among a bunch of distractors that aren't part of liberal dialog anyway. I don't stand around talking about trans issues with my liberal friends. These things have become issues because the right has raised them as talking points, and some have never been part of liberal rhetoric except defensively, when raised by the right. But notice how Drum thinks that the way to attract centrists is to be less Democrat by not defending ourselves in the culture wars. None of these items were part of Democratic campaign talking points for any candidate on the left. But Drum wants them dialed down?

    On November 10, 2022, there was "Should Democrats loosen up some on anti-racism?"

    On October 31, 2022, he argued that affirmative action is ineffective (with graphs), so who cares if the court overturns it.

    And here is Kevin's list of Centrist complaints for reference:

    "1) They think we're too lax on crime.
    2) They think we're constantly making up stupid new rules.
    3) They think we want to let in too many illegal immigrants.
    4) They think we want to spend money endlessly and drive up the debt.
    5) They were appalled by the looting and rioting during the BLM protests of 2020 and think Democrats should have denounced it more vigorously.
    6) They think wokeness is ridiculous. They want us to stop talking like academics from another galaxy.
    7) They do not like being called racist."

    Five out of the seven concern race (including crime and border issues). It takes Drum 6 issues to work up to the main underlying problem, which is #7. But the attitudes reflected in over-concern about crime (which has been decreasing), xenophobia about immigrants, overestimating rioting at BLM protests and blaming protesters for it, dislike for wokeness, all contribute to the impression of someone who is likely to be called racist at some point because of their attitudes, which show racial bias.

    I do not know whether the racist tendencies are part of what makes some people centrist, but I do know that I am unwilling to encourage liberals to cater to them by abandoning support for anti-racist and civil rights efforts. It would be better for centrists to become more informed and comfortable with race and the issues where racial fears come to the forefront, such as crime or border control.

    I do find it odd that Somerby thinks that threatening that centrists won't like us if we say x, is likely to change the behavior of liberals. We are not politicians who crave attention and affection from strangers. So why would we care who likes us? Is Somerby, a stage performer, projecting his own concerns onto his readers using something that would motivate him?

    1. Agree.

      Drum also likes to ignore all the evidence too - polls, votes etc., that clearly indicate America is more to the left of center.

      When right wingers, and those that carry water for them like Somerby and Drum, complain about the politics, stances, or tactics of Dems/progressives/leftists it is an obvious indication that those policies/tactics are being effective, duh!

  14. Are teachers unions to blame for Right-wingers inability to understand economics and basic mathematics?

    1. Barbie says: "Math is hard." So does Somerby. Coincidence?

  15. This right wing media/elite view, that telling the truth about Native American history is going to upset their viewers and rubes and ruin their Thanksgiving is incredibly condescending to those viewers/rubes/consumers. It’s also just downright weird.

    If it’s true, the implication is that they must always be lied to or never told certain truths in order to be placated into…continuing to vote for Republicans?.

    1. The right wants its "alternative facts" but it also wants to maintain an "alternative reality." A few years back, liberals prided themselves on being the "reality based community." Somerby has been working very hard to undermine the idea that there are verifiable objective facts that are known about a reality that is distinct from ourselves and are held in consensus (if only among scholars or scientists). This is why he keeps attacking professors, journalists, experts -- people who know and report on facts about reality. Knowledge workers prevent the right-wing from convincing followers they live in whatever "reality" they wish to create with lies.

      We have been in a war to preserve democracy, but also in a war to preserve knowledge and expertise. This is why the right-wing, like all autocracies, has been attacking the universities and now wants to control what is taught in schools. If the left abandons the defense of these institutions, we will all become Q-Anon and the right can do as it pleases with our government and our lives. Reread 1984 and think about how the right operates these days. And Somerby is on the wrong side, willingly helping to destroy the knowledge accumulated during the 18th-21st centuries. Why else would someone try to convince us that Einstein didn't know what he was talking about, since he couldn't explain relativity to an uneducated 12 year old?

    2. An alternative reality like calling this an essay defending book banning?

    3. Among other topics.

      When you have two sets of realities, which is true and which is the "alternative" or fantasy? The way to settle that is not a shouting contest, but a search for evidence. The evidence in this case is what Somerby said today, and what he has said on other occasions, which mh quoted. Other facts are the info Somerby intentionally left out of his own statements, contradicting his assertion that this is a single occurrence of removing a book from the curriculum, as quoted by mh. This info weakens the claim that Somerby was not defending the book banning, because why would he distort facts to make his case if he were not engaged in a defense?

      Whatever one feels about book banning, the idea that it is not occurring nationwide, as part of a coordinated right wing movement is factually incorrect and that makes it alternative reality to argue that this isn't happening, as Somerby seemed to do today, with his emphasis on one school board.

    4. Somerby cannot claim that book banning is a matter of parental choice when (1) the cry to remove books doesn't come from actual local school parents, (2) many books are involved not just one, as with the holocaust book removal, (3) there are funded organizations calling for book banning nationwide. That is perhaps why he left that info out of his essay and tried to focus on one very limited situation in which a parent dislikes a certain book. That situation is unfortunately not what is going on. Somerby knows that -- he isn't an idiot. And that makes it seem like this is a highly distorted attempt to defend the banning, one that has nothing to do with actual circumstances. Parents have long had the right to exclude their kids from school activities of various kinds, upon request.

    5. 2:51:
      You are too dense to realize that that is not an intelligent rebuttal to my original post above.

      Somerby supports the right of parents and school boards to remove books they deem “inappropriate” from curricula and libraries. That is called “banning” books. There is no dispute about that.

      In this essay, he rejects the author’s criticism of the ban on “Maus” as an attack on conservatives in general, and thus sides with the school board here, without making its case.

      You could have asked me if there were any books I would find unsuitable for school libraries, such as ones containing child pornography, for example, and I would have agreed. It is still called “banning”, and I would not reject that label.

      The question is whether Somerby simply defers to parents and school boards in all of these ongoing book banning efforts. He himself admitted a while ago that he hadn’t read “Beloved”, but still defended parents who wished to ban it.

    6. So, you feel this is an essay defending banning books. Thanks for showing us all who you are and how you reason.

    7. Are you 12:27? That comment said “ Show me the logic for a claim he supports book banning.”

      I did that, by quoting from a previous post. This post is a rejection of the criticism of the ban on “Maus.” and a failure to speak to how this fits into the ongoing culture wars. Do you have any reason to believe he doesn’t support the ban on “Maus?” (This isn’t the first time he’s discussed this specific book).

    8. Confusing people about what they think they know is a right wing tactic, part of brainwashing and gaslighting.

      I know that Somerby defended the school board and criticized Professor Chute, without addressing any of her points. That is how Somerby rolls. He also evaded all of the larger issues involved.

      I have never understood why one parent should be able to go to a school board and get a specific book banned for everyone else's kids. I would be outraged if that happened at my kid's school. Further, yes I can buy such books myself, but why should I have to do that? This is what school is for. And if my child reads the book at home, how does he or she get to engage in discussion with others about the book? Adults organize book clubs for that purpose, because hearing other people's ideas is part of learning. So why does one parent get to deny MY kid that opportunity?

  16. It is abnormal to spell human humyn.

  17. "In an interview with Semafor, Pompeo said: "I tell the story often—I get asked, 'Who's the most dangerous person in the world? Is it Chairman Kim, is it Xi Jinping?' The most dangerous person in the world is Randi Weingarten."

    "It's not a close call," Pompeo, who worked in the Trump administration and is considered a potential Republican presidential candidate, continued. "If you ask, 'Who's the most likely to take this republic down?' It would be the teachers' unions, and the filth that they're teaching our kids, and the fact that they don't know math and reading or writing."

    Weingarten responded by saying:

    "Pompeo "was more focused on pleasing Trump than fighting for freedom, national security, and democracy," said Weingarten.

    The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), by contrast, fights "for freedom, democracy, and an economy that works for all," Weingarten continued. "We fight for what kids and communities need: Strong public schools that are safe and welcoming, where kids learn how to think and work with others."

    "And we fight against this kind of rhetoric and hate," she added. "Maybe spend a minute in one of the classrooms with my members and their students and you will get a real lesson in the promise and potential of America." (From Rawstory)

    This talking point on the right, about how teachers are subverting children and not teaching them basic skills, is part of the right wing attack on knowledge, expertise, and a shared belief in core facts about our nation and the world. The accusation that children cannot read or do math is belied by the NAEP scores, which show improving scores across decades, lower in the time period before teachers were accused of indoctrinating children. There has been a dip showing the effect of the year when schooling was disrupted due to covid, but otherwise gains across the board for all children, despite persistent racial gaps which liberals believe show the impacts of racism on minority kids.

    1. Somerby has never talked about the attack on public education by the right wing. He never talks about charter schools. He never talks about disparities in school funding. He opposes school integration and attempts to open special programs and magnet schools to broader participation by minority children (he calls that unfair to Asians). He never talked about school problems during covid. He was kind of a one-trick-pony on NAEP interpretation, but lately he seems to not give a damn about any school issue, right at the point when the right wing has become most aggressive in attacking schools.

  18. “It’s everyone’s job” to protect our children, says Cecelia, who voted for Donald Trump, famous for invading the girls’ dressing room at a beauty pageant, for grabbing women by the p***y, for shtupping a porn star after the birth of his son, having dozens of allegations of sexual misconduct lodged against him, including rape, famously wanted to f**k his daughter, is on film partying with Epstein and his young girls…

    And that’s just the sexual part of his deviance.

    Yeah, tell us about how it’s everyone’s job to protect the children.

    Fucking hypocrite.

    1. Here we go.

      So much for debating things, huh, mh?

    2. You can’t only care about the kids when it suits your political purposes.

    3. The few times when Christopher Rufo doesn't tell Cecelia to "jump", she doesn't need to ask "how high?"

    4. Anonymouse 5:13pm, that’s a self-referential judgment that is the antithesis of the debate mh claims to want.

      Sooner or later, that’s going to be pulled out of your back pocket every time, because you don’t really want debate you want subservience.

      That’s the case whether it’s Somerby, Drum, or anyone else.

    5. Anonymouse 6:53am, again with me and Christopher Rufo?

      I can’t stop you from your fantasies and I wouldn’t if I could. I don’t need to know though.

    6. Cecelia,
      Is Rufo cribbing your bullshit?

  19. There are several school library and children's library journals to help children's librarians choose age-appropriate and appealing books for children. These include book reviews, recommendations and discussion of how to better serve children. This means that librarians do not need to read every book that is published every year to determine what will be good for kids, nor do they have to make a personal decision based on their own sensibilities about what will be good for kids either, as these adults who approach school boards seem to be doing.

    Last time he discussed this, Somerby attempted to argue that banning Beloved or Maus might be done for budget reasons, because it is impossible to buy all of the books that might become part of a library. The point of these library journals is to help librarians find the ones that would make the best use of their limited funds. When a highly recommended, widely used book is deliberately removed, that isn't really a budget decision. So the argument that one cannot buy all the books in the world does not apply. Nor does the problem of "what if the children's librarian goes crazy and starts ordering inappropriate books?" It is easy to check and see what has been said about books, to decide whether they are OK for use, and not rely on the idiosyncratic tastes and concerns of school board members, perhaps appointed for political reasons (as in the State of VA' s Board of Education). In other words, school districts will probably do better if they leave the job of selecting books to the trained professional librarians they have hired.

  20. I doubt that anyone here tells their dentist how to fix their teeth. Why should they be second-guessing the work of school professionals this way? I understand that parents are concerned about their kids, some to the point of obsession, but why do they think their own judgment is better than that of a teacher, who has not only been trained but has seen and helped so many children in a career? I don't think that caring alone makes a parent equipped to make specialized decisions about their kids.

    The idea of a parent turning over his child's backpack, taking out the various textbooks and throwing some in the trashcan, "You won't need that," "No need to learn this," is ludicrous. How would they know what will be useful to that child later on? So why do it with assigned book titles in an English or Social Science class? Obviously, these choices are not being made for educational reasons -- it is politics and fear that is motivating them. But why parents should be fearful that their children will grow up to know and perhaps even like sex, is beyond me, and they should be upset and disgusted by things like the holocaust, in order to be good, decent people.

    1. Anonymouse 4:52pm, I would and have been involved with what a dentist does to my child’s teeth. I would and have gotten a full explanation of the process, the goal, and the cost and then done some research.

      I’ve questioned car mechanics too and I boy-oh-boy, I highly suggest that you do the same and that anonymices quit appealing to authority long enough to make it a priority to evaluate such matters too.

    2. An appeal to expertise is not an appeal to authority.

  21. The "y" is next to the "a" on the cyrillic keyboard.

  22. You can tell the parents aren't Right-wingers, because they didn't call Liberals "snowflakes", before crying about what the big bad schoolbooks say.