A community has been left perplexed by a spate of attacks on scarecrows – including a decapitation. Six scarecrows have so far been damaged, having been part of a 25-strong display in Barnham Broom, near Wymondham, for three months of lockdown.
15 years ago, bloggers were all 20-30 something kids trying to get a foothold against 40-50-year-olds working in newspapers and magazines. Now newspapers and magazines are all 20-30 year olds, and bloggers/self-publishers are the older generations. https://t.co/JoqXwRFbau
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) July 17, 2020
Andrew Sullivan stops blogging, and blogging itself is dead. Andrew Sullivan resurrects his blog on Substack, and blogging is making a comeback. I suppose this is the gentrification stage of blogging, where all the media personalities with paid subscribers move back into our quaint little neighborhood to get away from the bland uniformity and sky-high social taxes of corporate media. Ah, well, they’ll probably be hopping on another shiny new tech platform soon enough, and we amateur hobbyists will be left in peace again. Just gotta wait ’em out. Quick, everybody, act rustic, and maybe they won’t even notice us.
Journalism possesses in itself the potentiality of becoming one of the most frightful monstrosities and delusions that have ever cursed mankind. This horrible transformation will occur at the exact instant at which journalists realize that they can become an aristocracy.
— G. K. Chesterton (@GKCdaily) March 18, 2019
So why, exactly, has the scope of these riots been so assiduously downplayed, and the opinions of those who experienced them first-hand been largely ignored? A number of potential explanations ring true. For one, media elites desperately do not want to undermine the moral legitimacy of a ‘movement’ that they have cast as presumptively righteous. And highlighting that urban minority populations are generally less enthusiastic about a movement whose mantra is “Black Lives Matter” would be embarrassing for obvious reasons.
The white liberals and Leftists who claim to be so sensitively attuned to the feelings of minorities clearly spend very little time actually talking to working class non-white people — or at least those who happen to fall outside their activist cohort. If they did, they would be saddened to discover that, unlike them, working class non-whites frequently express “small-c” conservative cultural attitudes.
Formerly, I would have described myself as skeptical, jaded, even cynical regarding the national media. I now realize that I knew they are never to be trusted the same way a Fijian knows that snow is cold. I knew it, but I didn’t know it. I might have sardonically agreed with Thomas Jefferson that “the man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers,” but I now have to admit I have never encountered people more misinformed than those who inhabit the media ecosystem 24/7. A merely ignorant person can be easily taught, but an educated idiot will cling to his delusions like a feral animal. I suspect that when I’m old and senile and require a handler, I will still clearly remember how aghast I was in the summer of 2020, watching the media and public health experts blatantly sacrifice their credibility in service to a political narrative. It might be worth a newspaper subscription if only to read “journalism’s” obituary with great pleasure.
I’ve said before, with only the tip of my tongue in my cheek, that Oprah Winfrey is “no more a person now, but a whole climate of opinion under which we conduct our differing lives.” (Yes, technically, Auden first said that about Freud, but Sigmund has nothing on Oprah when it comes to the reach of their respective pernicious influence. I’m confident that W.H., were he around today, would agree with me.) Now, with the news that Oprah is going to bring the risible 1619 Project to film and TV, it looks like she’s going to add pseudo-history to her legacy, in addition to the pseudo-spirituality and maudlin therapeutic sensibility she’s already known for. As if we weren’t already close enough to living in Idiocracy.
“Cancel culture isn’t an assault on freedom of speech,” the dishonest argument of the moment goes, “It is free speech.”
That isn’t really true, inasmuch as the entire point of “cancel culture” is to limit and suppress speech, which is nonetheless limitation and suppression when the tool used to accomplish it is speech, of a sort, if we are liberal enough to define “speech” as including the beef-witted grunts on Twitter. Cancel culture is not discourse but antidiscourse, a genre of speech intended not to facilitate the exchange of views and ideas but to prevent such an exchange. It is free speech in the sense that shouting down a speaker is free speech.
“Cancel culture doesn’t exist,” say the exact same people who, in recent years, denounced men, #yesallmen, for being under the malign influence of an evil spirit they called “rape culture.” But as Scooby-Doo and the members of Mystery, Inc. repeatedly demonstrated, most of these phantoms, when unmasked, reveal the all-too-human face of tribalism and motivated reasoning. It has certainly become trendy in recent years to target people’s jobs and reputations in order to enforce progressive orthodoxy and create a climate of fear (as even Noam Chomsky attests). But underneath it all, it’s the old simian urge to harass our peers into conformity and punish them for dissent. That urge is ancient and relentless, like the sea attempting to reclaim the land. Legal rights to free speech and freedom of association can’t create a dike by themselves. A principle of charity is also necessary, akin to Keats’s negative capability: an ability to rest easily among heterodoxy without any irritable reaching after retribution and enforced obedience. Without that, symbolic actions like the Harper’s Letter are just fingers in the dike, delaying the inevitable.
A transition from an author’s book to his conversation, is too often like an entrance into a large city, after a distant prospect. Remotely, we see nothing but spires of temples and turrets of palaces, and imagine it the residence of splendour, grandeur and magnificence; but, when we have passed the gates, we find it perplexed with narrow passages, disgraced with despicable cottages, embarrassed with obstructions, and clouded with smoke.
— Samuel Johnson, “The difference between an author’s writings and his conversation“
As the old saying goes, never follow your heroes on social media, unless you’re one of those weirdos with a clay-foot fetish. In his book Eric Hoffer: The Longshoreman Philosopher, Tom Bethell wrote:
After 1965, Hoffer became a public figure. Before 1934, he is a mystery figure. Will more information about Hoffer’s background turn up? That’s doubtful. There are signs that he was more than merely forgetful about his early years. In fact, I believe he was deliberately secretive. When pressed for more detail by journalists he would say he was confused or couldn’t remember much of anything. About later events in his life he had an excellent memory. Were there things he didn’t want us to know? One possibility that comes to mind is that he was an illegal immigrant to this country. But, again, I have no positive evidence. Did he really teach himself botany, chemistry, and Hebrew on skid row in Los Angeles? One can’t help wondering.
I don’t wonder. Honestly, I don’t care. His thoughts are interesting enough, floating free in the noosphere. I don’t need them to be anchored in biography to make them insightful or relevant. In fact, I wish more authors and thinkers today would learn to cultivate an aura of mysterious reticence. Or, at the very least, to seek treatment for their cerebral bulimia.
I have been working like a rented mule these last few weeks and have barely had time to think, let alone read and write, but I’m glad to see public intellectuals making the first gestures toward a Thermidorian reaction. It’s a nice break from the incessant coverage of the Instagram riots and the Salem racist trials.
“I live in a society full of blemishes and deformities. But it is a society that gives every man elbow room to do the things near to his heart. In no other country is it so possible for a man of determination to go ahead, with whatever it is that he sets his heart on, without compromising his integrity. Of course, those who set their heart on acclaim and fortune must cater to other people’s demands. But for those who want to be left alone to realize their capacities and talents, this is an ideal country. It is incredible how easy it is in this country to cut oneself off from what one disapproves—from all vulgarity, mendacity, conformity, subservience, speciousness, and other corrupting influences and infections.”
— Eric Hoffer, Working and Thinking on the Waterfront
As millions of Americans escape home quarantine to the great outdoors this summer, they’ll venture into parks, campgrounds and forest lands that remain stubborn bastions of self-segregation.@devindwyer reports. https://t.co/Xzmouf4bwM pic.twitter.com/e8PckJcVqn
— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) July 1, 2020
I don’t have any special prophetic powers, but I would suggest taking note of that term, “self-segregation.” It may sound like a weaponized strain of parody that escaped from a lab, but as the demand for racism continues to dramatically exceed the supply, I’d be willing to bet that we’ll soon be hearing a lot more of it in earnest. Anyway, I sure don’t want to be a racist hiker, so it sounds to me like the logical conclusion here is to round up some blacks, Hispanics and Asians, load them up with camping supplies, and march them off into the wilderness to decolonize the outdoors. Sorry, what? Well, no. Why would I ask them if they want to do it? Who cares what individuals want to do? The point is to make the demographics fit on this Procrustean bed of ours. Numbers! Numbers are what we care about, not subjective experience!
Speaking of which:
The great Thomas Sowell, whose books should be on every intelligent adult’s bedside table, just celebrated his 90th birthday on June 30th. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, and you’d like to hop on the bandwagon while he’s still around, and if you had to pick one book relevant to our current topic, I’d recommend Discrimination and Disparities, in which he labors heroically to dispel precisely this fallacy, that all disparities in outcome are the result of malicious discrimination. That thread, if tugged upon, really does unravel the whole progressive ball of yarn. We’ve all heard conservatives claim to be in favor of equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. Progressives see this as a strawman, claiming that, if anything, they’re in favor of true equality of opportunity, which can’t exist as long as privilege, systemic discrimination, etc. exist. In practice, this amounts to being in favor of equality of outcome, because anything less is assumed to be illegitimate. Individual black people may claim to simply not be interested in hiking through national parks, but what if they’re only saying that because they’ve been imperfectly shaped by their history, both personal and collective? What would they choose if we could redo the past?
Is it fate?
Or is it just a cold heart?
Did I win the race?
Or was it just a false start?
— The Obsessed, “Touch of Everything“
Many of us can recall discussions of free will in philosophy class. We probably all discussed the possibility of what it means to “choose” under coercion. If a criminal holds a gun to your head and commands you to do something appalling and/or illegal in order to save your life, is it truly a choice? Can you reasonably be faulted or blamed for not choosing death?
For progressives, history is that gun held to our heads. The circumstances into which we were born, the limitations placed upon us by genetics and upbringing, the imperfect choices we make with limited information throughout our lives — all of these infringements upon our ability to truly, freely choose from all possible options are seen as coercion. Like all virtues, liberalism can be taken too far and turned into a vice. It’s not enough to remove as many overt obstacles as possible in order to allow individuals as many options as possible; we have to imagine what the world would look like had none of those obstacles ever existed, and then work to realize that utopian vision here and now. Until all past injustices have been negated through enlightened policies, no one can ever be truly said to be free to choose. Had transatlantic slavery never existed, then…black Americans would constitute 13% of outdoors enthusiasts, in keeping with their proportion of the general population. Something like that. I know, I know, there are so many fallacious assumptions and counterfactual fantasies at work here that it doesn’t even bear taking seriously. Crudden’s one tweet could spawn a thousand questions attempting in vain to clarify all its implications. But while you may not be interested in philosophical incoherence, this virulent strain of philosophical incoherence is very interested in you and the many ways you’re oppressing people simply by existing.
Speaking of Jordan Peterson, as Ms. “Hard Scientist” was earlier, he wondered about an interesting question some time ago: What is the limiting principle of the left? We all have a clear idea of what it looks like when the far-right goes too far, but why have their mirror images on the left failed to equally serve as cautionary tales? Why isn’t it a cliché on the right to say that “real fascism has never been tried,” the way it is among apologists for communism? With the events of the past month fresh in my mind, my provisional answer to his question would be “disaster.” Disaster is the limiting principle of the left. Nothing else ever stops them from pushing in the direction of what they imagine to be “progress.” No matter how many times their ideas lead to the same predictable blood-soaked cul-de-sacs, they will only rest, regroup, and try again. The best we can hope for is that most of those ideas die before reaching adulthood. I fear that “disparities=discrimination” has already become an obnoxious adolescent, though.