THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2023
That's what Kristof suspects: Is Karen Attiah's (somewhat lurid) speculation unhelpful?
As we noted yesterday, Attiah's speculation appears in her latest column for the Washington Post. The column is given prominent display on the op-ed page in this morning's print editions.
Karen Attiah is a good, decent person. But is her somewhat lurid speculation actually unhelpful?
By "unhelpful," we mean this:
Will Attiah's column bring people around to her preferred side? Or could it possibly encourage voters to team up with the red tribe?
In fairness, it's a little bit hard to see what Attiah is proposing in her column. But will her speculation encourage people to come down on the side of racial justice as it's generally understood within our own blue tribe?
We'll guess that the answer is no. The road to progress may begin when we start coming to terms with possibilities like that.
To what "somewhat lurid speculation" by Attiah do we refer? To our ear, Attiah suggests, in her new column, that news orgs are broadcasting the videotape of Tyre Nichols' beating death as a form of "ritual entertainment."
To our ear, that speculations is a bit lurid. Her takeaway remark goes like this:
ATTIAH (2/2/23): Black suffering has become an industrial complex of its own, snuff films as ritual entertainment.
When we watch the assault of the late Tyre Nichols, Attiah says we're watching a "snuff film"—a snuff film offered as "ritual entertainment."
And while we're at it, make no mistake. She also suggests that these "snuff films" are broadcast as "entertainment" for one major national subgroup:
ATTIAH: Video taken by police body cameras and quick-thinking bystanders now offers the public even more opportunities to bear witness to police brutality. But increasingly, I find it less ethically correct to traffic in images of Black death for the sake of imagined awareness—specifically, White awareness.
That passage seems to suggest that these snuff films don't increase real awareness at all. They're aired for the sake of imagined awareness—imagined awareness among, who else, them whites.
These comments qualify as speculations—and some speculations are accurate! These speculations don't strike us that way—but they flat-out don't strike us as helpful.
By that, we mean that such lurid speculations may tend to drive a range of voters away from the values and views of our own failing blue tribe. We had a similar reaction to Atiah's column of a few weeks ago, when she offered these flippant remarks about white folk and the NFL:
ATTIAH (1/16/23): Considering that nearly 70 percent of the NFL’s players are Black, the Hamlin episode is a reminder that almost every weekend, Americans tune in to watch mostly Black men bash into one another for the profit of White team owners.
It doesn’t do Hamlin or any other NFL player any good to ignore the dark side of this sport...In fact, not talking about race and the racial dynamics in the NFL only placates the consciences of the large White conservative fan base, people who simply want to enjoy their Sunday nachos while watching players risk brain damage.
Do "Americans" tune in to the NFL "to watch mostly Black men bash into one another for the profit of White team owners?" More specifically, does the league's "large White conservative fan base...simply want to enjoy their Sunday nachos while watching players risk brain damage?"
Is that why white fans watch the NFL? If so, why do black fans tune in?
Given our nation's brutal history, race is a deeply sensitive topic. Karen Attiah is a good, decent person, but she's also remarkably flippant when offering assessments like these.
It's amazing to us that the Washington Post is willing to put such work into print. Your mileage about her work may vary, but we'll guess that such work is unhelpful.
Then too, concerning The Road to Unhelpful, there's what Nicholas Kristof now says.
In this morning's New York Times, Kristof discusses an ongoing piece of blue tribe culture which he regards as unhelpful. He even thinks that this part of our culture may be helping pols like Donald J. Trump—pols of the other, red tribe.
Kristof starts by discussing a recent flap which blew up within the Associated Press. Should journalists refer to the French as "the French?" That was the question at hand!
You can read Kristof's column for a quick review of this minor maelstrom. Soon, though, he turns to his major point—and his major point starts off like this:
KRISTOF (2/2/23): The flap over the French underscores the ongoing project to revise terminology in ways that are meant to be more inclusive—but which I fear are counterproductive and end up inviting mockery and empowering the right.
Latino to Latinx. Women to people with uteruses. Homeless to houseless. L.G.B.T. to LGBTQIA2S+. Breastfeeding to chestfeeding. Asian American to A.A.P.I. Ex-felon to returning citizen. Pro-choice to pro-decision. I inhabit the world of words, and even I’m a bit dizzy.
As for my friends who are homeless, what they yearn for isn’t to be called houseless; they want housing.
We've more often seen things move from "homeless" to "unhoused." At any rate, Kristof politely describes the matter at hand as "the ongoing project to revise terminology in ways that are meant to be more inclusive."
In doing so, he assumes good intentions on the part of blue tribe practitioners. However you might assess questions of motive, it's clear that Kristof thinks that this part of tribal culture may end up helping players like Donald J. Trump, or even Ron DeSantis:
Kristof fears that this conduct is "counterproductive." He fears that this conduct, taken to an extreme, ends up "empowering the right."
We would tend to think that's right—and it looks like we aren't alone. As he continues, Kristof speaks with Rep. Torres, then continues on from there:
KRISTOF (continuing directly): Representative Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat who identifies as Afro-Latino, noted that a Pew survey found that only 3 percent of Hispanics themselves use the term Latinx.
“I have no personal objection to the term ‘Latinx’ and will use the term myself before an audience that prefers it,” Torres told me. “But it’s worth asking if the widespread use of the term ‘Latinx’ in both government and corporate America reflects the agenda-setting power of white leftists rather than the actual preferences of working-class Latinos.”
Similarly, terms like BIPOC—for Black, Indigenous and People of Color—seem to be employed primarily by white liberals. A national poll for The Times found that white Democrats were more than twice as likely to feel “very favorable” toward the term as nonwhite people.
According to Torres, real Latinos don't say "Latinx." Also, "nonwhites" don't say "BIPOC," at least not according to Pew.
Torres suggests that the use of "Latinx" is coming from a bunch of white lefties within our own blue tribe. Kristof cites a similar dynamic with respect to the term BIPOC.
Eventually, Kristof brings the eternal note of sadness in. He uses a certain word:
KRISTOF: I’m all for being inclusive in our language, and I try to avoid language that is stigmatizing. But I worry that this linguistic campaign has gone too far, for three reasons.
First, much of this effort seems to me performative rather than substantive. Instead of a spur to action, it seems a substitute for it.
To Kristof, much of this language shifting seems to be "performative." It's just us liberals putting our virtue on display, or so Kristof suspects.
The experts with whom we consult on such matters take things one step further. The constant reinvention of acceptable language is a type of "in-group formation," they despairingly say.
The elect among us keep inventing new terms as a way to signal membership in the most elite of our tribal subgroups. Or at least, so these top scholars say.
The elect start using certain words. Other people within our tribe scramble to keep up with the flow. Everyone else is left in the dust. This may be unhelpful, Kristof says—except to Donald J. Trump!
For the record, these are hardly new ideas. That said, we're inclined to think that they're right. For you, the mileage may differ.
Still and all, it's very important that we self-impressed members of our blue tribe begin to consider an important possibility:
Plainly, no one else will ever be as moral or good as we blue tribals are. Concerning that basic fact of nature, there can be no real dispute.
Still and all, do we sometimes behave in ways which aren't especially helpful? Given how venal The Others all are, is it possible that our own exemplary conduct can blow back on us at times?
Do we things which simply aren't helpful? More on this question tomorrow.
Tomorrow: Back to Maddow and Blow?