Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Modern Conspiracy Theories

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

Trish Zornio has out an op-ed on conspiracy mongering in Colorado; she focuses on Lauren Boebert and Randy Corporon.

The AP has a story about Boebert (a Colorado congressional candidate). Here’s the key troublesome remark, which she made in a live interview: “Everything that I’ve heard of Q, I hope that this is real because it only means that America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values.”

Arguably Boebert also “gave a wink and a nod” to a QAnon conspiracy theory about Tom Hanks, says Kyle Clark of 9News. Boebert Tweeted, “Joe Biden is doing a fundraiser with newly minted Greek Citizen Tom Hanks tomorrow. I just. . . no comment.” According to Clark, “Some QAnon followers believe that Hanks’s duel citizenship in Greece is an attempt to escape child-abuses charges, pedophilia charges.” He continues, “Tom Hanks actually received his honorary Greek citizenship for his humanitarian work on behalf of Greek wildfire victims in 2018.” USA Today has more background about this.

The FBI very reasonably counts QAnon as a terror threat.

9News reported August 14, “A Douglas County judge has ruled there’s enough evidence to proceed with the case against a woman accused of plotting a “raid” to kidnap her son from foster care with aid from members of the far-right conspiracy group QAnon.”

CNN’s article about Colorado attorney and political activist Randy Corporon is titled, “Top Colorado RNC official spread conspiracy theories and made Islamophobic and sexist comments.” The Colorado Times Recorder published Corporon’s reply, but his remarks were not very substantive.

Civiqs ran a poll, “”Do you believe that the QAnon theory about a conspiracy among deep state elites is true?” The results: “Fully 33% of Republicans say it is mostly true. 23% think some parts are true. Only 13% say it’s not true at all. In contrast, 72% of Democrats say the QAnon theory isn’t true. Only 14% of Americans have never heard of QAnon.” However, the wording is not very specific. Lots of people who don’t follow QAnon are worried about a “deep state.” “The federal government employs nearly 9.1 million workers”—that seems pretty “deep” to me (whether it’s a problem is another matter). I’m pretty sure that if the pollsters had used Kyle Clark’s more-specific language—”this is the conspiracy theory that President Trump is about to round up and execute his opponents for pedophilia and drinking baby blood”—the results would have been rather different. Still, the results are alarming.

QAnon Crazy

Sunday, August 30th, 2020

QAnon is a nuclear explosion of disinformation. . . . The very premise of QAnon is that anyone in charge is not just lying to you, but they’re doing it to help Satan himself in exchange for baby blood.”

Violence in America

Sunday, August 30th, 2020

I included many instances of recent violence in a recent article.

Jason Brennan has out a good critique of rioting and looting that harms property of innocent people.

Huemer on Democracy

Saturday, July 25th, 2020

“It is the masses who harbor anti-democratic attitudes. Democratic values are the province of the elites. It is the elites who must protect those values from the masses.” So says Michael Huemer.

Huemer worries that, these days, “we have a great democratization of information,” and this is destroying our culture. “Now that the masses are participating in content-generation and -distribution too, they’re bringing everyone down to their level,” he writes.

Racism and Anti-Intellectualism on the Left

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

A document from the National Museum of African American History & Culture overtly embraces racism and anti-intellectualism, asserting that “white culture” entails individualism, “emphasis on the scientific method” and “objective, rational linear thinking,” a belief that “hard work is the key to success,” and a “future orientation”—along with a bunch of other things that are either mixed, neutral, or bad. This is a package deal of epic proportions. It constitutes an extraordinary smear of the many great Black scientists (not to mention hard-working people in all fields) of history and of today. It is also comically self-refuting; for example, is it an objective fact that “white culture” entails those things, or is that merely the subjective preference of the author? If the latter (as it obviously is), why should we believe any of it?

In related news: “Museum Curator Resigns After He Is Accused of Racism for Saying He Would Still Collect Art From White Men.”

The Cancel Culture Debate

Monday, July 13th, 2020

I certainly do not intend this as anything like a comprehensive discussion of the issue at hand. These are just a few notes.

On July 7 Harper’s published a letter “on justice and open debate.” It argues, “The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted.” The letter was signed by Steven Pinker, who recently has come under criticism for what I regard as stupid reasons. Other signers include Nicholas Christakis, Jonathan Rauch, and J. K. Rowling (who has faced her own barrage of criticism).

Osita Nwanevu writes for New Republic about the “willful blindness of reactionary liberalism.” Here is the thesis: “The tensions we’ve seen lately have been internal to liberalism for ages: between those who take the associative nature of liberal society seriously and those who are determined not to. It is the former group, the defenders of progressive identity politics, who in fact are protecting—indeed expanding—the bounds of liberalism. And it is the latter group, the reactionaries, who are most guilty of the illiberalism they claim has overtaken the American Left.”

Matt Taibbi writes, “The leaders of this new movement [of the left] are replacing traditional liberal beliefs about tolerance, free inquiry and even racial harmony with ideas so toxic and unattractive that they eschew debate, moving straight to shaming, threats and intimidation.”

Hannah Giorgis writes, “In recent years, defenses of ‘free speech’ have often been wielded by people in positions of power in response to critics who want to hold them accountable for the real-life harm their words might cause.” And: “Facing widespread criticism on Twitter, undergoing an internal workplace review, or having one’s book panned does not, in fact, erode one’s constitutional rights or endanger a liberal society.”

Megan McArdle writes, “The cancelers aren’t merely trying to expand the range of acceptable ideas so that it includes more marginalized voices. They are pressuring mainstream institutions, which serve as society’s idea curators, to adopt a much narrower definition of ‘reasonable’ opinion. The new rules would exclude the viewpoints of many Americans.”

July 14 Update: In her resignation letter, former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss writes, “A new consensus has emerged in the press, but perhaps especially at this paper: that truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.” She claims various colleagues harassed her and that she faced “unlawful discrimination, hostile work environment, and constructive discharge.”

Racism in Ohio

Monday, July 6th, 2020

Is there racism in America today? As video from Bethel, Ohio clearly indicates, the clear answer is yes. See also Buzzfeed‘s report.

See also a report about a disturbing racist incident in Indiana.

The Stage of Progress

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Scholar’s Stage addresses Marc Andreessen’s call to build: “Andreessen is correct: our failure to build things is a problem of culture and will.” As a free market advocate, I tend to focus on how culture and damaging government controls interplay.

Uhlig Gets Cancelled for Stating the Obvious

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

John Cochrane: “Harald Uhlig, a distingushed macroeconomist at the University of Chicago, sent out a few tweets questioning the wisdom of quickly ‘defunding the police.’ The twitter mob, led by Paul Krugman and Justin Wolfers, swiftly attacked. A petition circulated, reportedly gaining 500 signatories, demanding his removal as editor of the Journal of Political Economy. That petition has been taken down and I can’t seem to find it to verify just who did sign it. But I saw an astonishing number of tweets from economists that I formerly respected and considered to be level headed, fact-and-logic, cause-and-effect analysts of public policies pile on. The media piled on, with coverage at New York Times, Wall Street Journal Chicago Tribune and a bit of a counterpoint at Fox News, Breitbart National Review and others. By Friday, the University of Chicago caved in and threw Harald under the bus.”

The Heroism of Patrick Hutchinson

Monday, June 15th, 2020

Patrick Hutchinson, a protester in London, carried an injured white man over his shoulder to safety. He said, “You have to show some sort of love for your fellow man.” He said, “I want to see equality for everybody. I am a father, a grandfather and I would love to see my young children, my young grandchildren, my nieces, my nephews have a better world than I have lived in. The world I live in has been better than my grandparents and my parents and hopefully we can continue until we have total equality for everyone.” He added, “We’re all one people, we’re all one race.”

Sullivan on Debate

Saturday, June 13th, 2020

Andrew Sullivan worries about “living in a world where adherence to a particular ideology becomes mandatory.” He writes, “The puritanical streak of shaming and stigmatizing and threatening runs deep. This is the country of extraordinary political and cultural freedom, but it is also the country of religious fanaticism, moral panics, and crusades against vice.”

I think Sullivan is a bit unfair to Wesley Lowery, saying that Lowery’s focus on “moral clarity” implies not seeing “all sides of a story.” Well, no one thinks it’s a good idea to equally consider all sides of a given story, when some people still claim the Earth is flat. And claims about “objectivity” in journalism usually are pretty nuanced, as I’ve reviewed. (I think it’s a mistake to reject objectivity, but I also think that most journalists who think they reject objectivity simply misuse the term.)

Sullivan is rightly concerned about those who, like Lowery, see racism at work everywhere. The American experiment, says Lowery, was “designed to perpetuate racial inequality.” Obviously the Constitution was developed out of a compromise between Abolitionists and slave holders. But the essential American principle, articulated in the Declaration, is that all people are created equal. Sullivan grants “there is truth” in Lowery’s claim but thinks “there is also an awful amount of truth it ignores or elides or simply denies.” I think that’s fair.

Sullivan worries about the view that sees America as inherently and irredeemably corrupt: “It sees America as in its essence not about freedom but oppression. It argues, in fact, that all the ideals about individual liberty, religious freedom, limited government, and the equality of all human beings were always a falsehood to cover for and justify and entrench the enslavement of human beings under the fiction of race. It wasn’t that these values competed with the poison of slavery, and eventually overcame it, in an epic, bloody civil war whose casualties were overwhelmingly white. It’s that the liberal system is itself a form of white supremacy — which is why racial inequality endures and why liberalism’s core values and institutions cannot be reformed and can only be dismantled.”

Sullivan says that what we need beyond moral clarity is “moral complexity.”

Crazy about Antifa

Saturday, June 13th, 2020

Consider this Colorado headline: “Roofing company workers forced onto ground, held at gunpoint by man who thought they were Antifa.” One of the victims plays football for Colorado State. Anyone want to guess where the guy with the gun gets his news?

The Absurd Canceling of David Shor

Friday, June 12th, 2020

Here’s how David Shor summarized a 2017 paper by Princeton’s Omar Wasow: “Post-MLK-assasination race riots reduced Democratic vote share in surrounding counties by 2%, which was enough to tip the 1968 election to Nixon. Non-violent protests increase Dem vote, mainly by encouraging warm elite discourse and media coverage.” Here’s how Wasow responded: “Thank you for reading the paper so closely. And, for anyone interested in latest versions, see [here].” So. . . this is great, right? Intellectual discussion on Twitter!

The story takes a depressing turn, Jonathan Chait reviews: “In certain quarters of the left—though not among Democratic elected officials—criticizing violent protest tactics is considered improper on the grounds that it distracts from deeper underlying injustice, and shifts the blame from police and other malefactors onto their victims.” After taking criticism, “Shor apologized for tweeting Omar’s paper.” And Civis Analytics, where Shor worked, fired Shor over the Thoughtcrime.

Chait goes on to criticize the illiberalism of parts of the American left. Obviously illiberalism now dominates much of the American “right.”

You Have Entered the Autonomous Zone

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

“Claims that bands of militant Antifa members are roving the Seattle streets appear to be grossly exaggerated in right-wing media,” CNN reports. It would be nuts to think that! “It is true that demonstrators have occupied a small, six-square block section of Seattle and designated it an ‘autonomous zone.’ And it is true that, after clashes with police, a precinct was boarded up and evacuated in an attempt to deescalate the situation.” Move along, nothing to see here . . .

Governor Jay Inslee assures us, “The area is largely peaceful.” It has a nickname: CHAZ, for Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.

The New York Times has a piece about this.

Emily Pothast has a leftward take on CHAZ.

QAnon Goes to Washington

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

QAnon conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has frequently posted messages about the bizarre pro-Trump conspiracy theory on social media, handily leads the primary field of Republicans in Georgia’s heavily Republican 14th District.” This is easy to mock but it actually indicates a degradation of American culture. Note that she ran partly on a law-and-order platform.

A Note of Optimism

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

I Tweeted June 8: “Some people see America falling apart. I see countless Americans rising to meet twin crises with intelligent discussion, tireless effort, moral resolve, and an eye toward a better future.”

Hong Kong Protest Tactics

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

American protesters picked up various strategies from protesters in Hong Kong, such as using umbrellas as shields, traffic cones to cover teargas canisters, and leaf blowers to blow away tear gas. Protesters in Hong Kong use various other strategies, such as using lasers and paint to disrupt cameras and rapidly moving to new locations.

Lives Matter

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

My June 3 Tweet: “Black lives matter. Uighur lives matter. Rohingya lives matter. North Korean lives matter. Hong Kong lives matter. Venezuelan lives matter. Gay lives matter. Women’s lives matter. Apostate lives matter. Lives matter.”

Conspiracy Theories about George Floyd’s Death

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

Jason Salzman, who monitors Republican and conservative social media and radio, wrote, “Mesa County, Colo, Republicans Remove Facebook Post Speculating That George Floyd’s Death Was Faked.”

Less-Bad Economic COVID News

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

I was among those fearful unemployment in the U.S. would surpass 20%. It seems that’s not happening. Indeed, the unemployment rate in May actually fell to 13.3%. That’s still really horrible by normal standards, but we’re not in normal times. It’s unclear to me how many people have switched jobs to things like food delivery, but obviously the shift to new jobs has helped. Meanwhile, the U.S. is largely going back to work in all the businesses that were shut down because of the pandemic.

Daily COVID-related deaths continue an overall downward decline in the U.S., with 932 recorded for June 6 (per Our World in Data). That still represents a monumental failure, but things could be worse. I’m a little worried that new Colorado cases remain relatively high, with 240 reported for June 4, but increased testing accounts for part of that. Daily deaths and daily hospitalizations have declined. So I think part of what we’re seeing is people being a little less worried about the disease.

Gates COVID Conspiracy Theories

Friday, June 5th, 2020

Elan Journo talks about COVID-19 conspiracy theories about Bill Gates. Laura Ingraham pushed one such theory.

The New York Times discusses how Gates “has been attacked with falsehoods that he created the coronavirus and wants to profit from it.