Can you believe the things you're told...

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2022 your tribe's most trusted tribunes? We're breaking an array of promises with today's brief posting.

We said that we would discuss this persistently puzzling "philosophical" question: What is time? 

Beyond that, we still haven't made our way back to the best books of 2022—to the genres featured in the New York Times, to the genres which got disappeared.

Also, we never got back to what Karine Jeanne-Pierre said about the release of Brittney Griner. That said, and just this once, we're going to let you ask us about our award-winning plans for next week.

Next week, we plan to review a claim which is frequently advanced by blue tribe elites. When the familiar claim is advanced, we're told that the claim is justified by academic research.

We've examined the claim once before, when it was made in the Washington Post by columnist Michele Norris. In the past few weeks, we saw the claim in a different essay in the Post, then again in one of the year's most widely praised books.

The book in question is Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation

The book, by Linda Villarosa, has been widely praised as one of the best of the year. The New York Times picked it as one of the year's ten best books, as you can see right here.

At this point, a quick bit of background:

We take it as obvious that this nation's brutal racial history has indeed taken a wide array of hidden and non-hidden tolls on the nation's health and general well-being. We have no idea how well the various specific claims in Villarosa's book stand up to full review.

We won't be reviewing Villarosa's widely praised book. Instead, we'll be reviewing one particular claim which appears in the book. 

The claim is made quite commonly, as we'll note next week. The claim appears in truncated form on page 40 of Under the Skin. Here's the way the claim appeared in 2018, in an essay by Villarosa in the New York Times

VILLAROSA (4/11/18): In 2016, a study by researchers at the University of Virginia examined why African-American patients receive inadequate treatment for pain not only compared with white patients but also relative to World Health Organization guidelines. The study found that white medical students and residents often believed incorrect and sometimes “fantastical” biological fallacies about racial differences in patients. For example, many thought, falsely, that blacks have less-sensitive nerve endings than whites, that black people’s blood coagulates more quickly and that black skin is thicker than white. For these assumptions, researchers blamed not individual prejudice but deeply ingrained unconscious stereotypes about people of color, as well as physicians’ difficulty in empathizing with patients whose experiences differ from their own. 

That UVa study is frequently cited when this general topic is discussed. But did the study actually show that white medical students and residents "often believed such incorrect and sometimes 'fantastical' biological fallacies" as the three that passage specifically lists?

To cite just the first example, did the study actually show that "many [of those students and residents] thought, falsely, that blacks have less-sensitive nerve endings than whites?" 

Indeed, did the study show that any of the students and residents believed that particular statement? We'll even go so far as to ask this:

Did the study show that any of the people surveyed believed any of those claims at all? (We're not sure the answer is yes.)

We'll ask those questions in service to a larger question. That larger question goes like this:

Can you believe the things you're told by your tribe's most trusted observers?

As the nation slides toward the sea—in this era of tribal warfare and widespread madness—we think that's a fairly good question to raise at the end of the year. Can you believe the factual claims to which you're exposed? Can you even put your faith in the people conducting academic research?

Villarosa's book has been widely praised. As far as we know, Villarosa and her book deserve the praise they've received.

Then again, we can't swear that various claims in the book are accurate. By the way, in case you missed it, this is the greatest film of all time:

 Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

In the realm of factual claims, in the realm of critical judgments, can you trust and believe the various things you're told by your own tribe's elites?

Can we trust our own elites? Inquiring minds rarely ask!


  1. "Can you believe the things you're told by your tribe's most trusted observers?"

    Eh... what? "most trusted observers"?? Oh, dear.
    ...are you talking, by chance, about the good-decent persons?

    Anyhow. For obvious reasons, dear Bob, whatever your tribal priests preach, you can be certain that the opposite is true. 100 percent of the time.

    ...and that, dear Bob, is the most reliable rule in the whole universe. Good as gold. You can take it to the bank, dear.

  2. If you are talking about trusting the
    Elites ( a rather tired term signaling
    reverse snobbery, but whatever)
    It’s fair to assume Bob is talking about
    MSNBC, the New York Times and
    The Washington Post.
    Can they be TRUSTED? Few would
    argue, from either side of the fence,
    “yes, all the time and on all matters”
    Some would say they have played
    a central role in CREATING the Trump
    Catastrophe, for varying reasons.
    This week some rather sobering
    things are likely to emanate from
    the January 6th committee. They
    will underline the fact that Donald
    Trump attempted to use his power
    as President to overthrow the
    Government on the United States.
    In this matter, the Times, Wa Post,
    and MSNBC have been completely
    correct. Even the serious flubs at
    MSNBC (Avanotti) are irrelevant in
    context of the gravity of the
    situation. Trump led a violent
    riot on the Capital of the US, and
    even here his Party abided with
    In these matters Bob Somerby
    could, with great charity, be termed
    a jackass. After years of increasingly
    childish and obnoxious excuses for
    Trump, he looked away from the
    Committee’s work because the
    Republicans were not sufficiently
    Represented on it (he won’t tell you
    why, EVER). As more slime rose
    to the top through our legal system,
    Bob put his fingers in his ears
    and began chanting “Trump Trump
    Trump Trump” in a juvenile attempt
    to mock those who reported on
    the cases he could no longer stand
    to follow. Often he simply points our
    out that people disagree the non
    Trumpies. Yes, many of those will
    be buying strange ugly playing cards
    for Christmas, sold by the man whose
    mental health Bob has shown such
    concern for. How they have been
    treated Bob shows, in the end, he
    has no interest in, Bob Somerby is
    a pathetic person.
    So now we return to Bob’s unusual
    point of sensitivity, race. By the time
    the committee dealt with the Black
    woman Trump and his team had signaled
    out for cruel, calculated terror on
    invented charges of election cheating,
    Bob had decided he didn’t have to
    pay attention to the committee anymore.
    On matters of race or anything else,
    can you trust a miserable bastard
    like Bob Somerby?

    1. All this Vogon’s flob and spittle, simply because of this:

      “As the nation slides toward the sea—in this era of tribal warfare and widespread madness—we think that's a fairly good question to raise at the end of the year. Can you believe the factual claims to which you're exposed? Can you even put your faith in the people conducting academic research?”


    2. Cecelia does nothing more here than to call someone a Vogon. Name calling isn't discussion. She says nothing about why she disagrees with the commenter or even what she disagrees about in it. Empty (or as Somerby would put it, vacuous).

    3. What is a Vogon?

    4. Is that someone who reads Vogue
      a lot? Anyway, honestly, in context
      yes, the bile Bob gets here is well
      earned. He can no longer frame
      an argument. He can no longer
      make a passing effort at justifying
      what he wants us to accept.
      So, we get the weak, generalized
      dis, “well, can you be believed
      You get the Tucker element
      (These are just questions) molded
      to the self congratulatory
      paranoia of QAnon.
      Bob should stop this, but
      I think it’s a paying gig.

    5. Anonymouse 2:51pm, that comment of my mine was more than a little cross.

      Sorry about that.

  3. Somerby is recycling a specious criticism he raised. I and others debunked his complaints about the study. I am not going to waste my time doing that again. Somerby is incorrect in his criticisms, as was demonstrated before. Now he wants to impugn an entire book on the basis of his mistaken previous criticism of a single study (among the wide literature upon which the book is based). He says he is not "reviewing" the book -- he just wants to falsify it without doing that much work -- by complaining AGAIN about a study he was wrong about before. This is nonsense and a waste of everyone's time.

  4. Get it right Bobby, the gorgeous Kim Novak was Jimmy Stewart’s squeeze in Vertigo

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