Say It Ain’t So, Joel

The reference is to the public dismay when beloved baseball player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was accused as one of the 1919 Chicago White Sox participating in a conspiracy to fix the World Series.   One day historians may look back upon the 2020 election in this way; or not if it is the victors who write the record.

In any case this post is actually about a timely article by Joel Kotkin at Real Clear Energy.  I have posted a number of his insightful essays in the past, but have mixed feelings about this one.  He expresses a number of things I fear are true, but the effect is so discouraging as to suggest throwing in the towel.  Judge for yourself: The article is The End Game.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and images.

With the election of Joe Biden, the environmental movement has now established suzerainty over global economics. Gone not only is the troublesome Donald Trump but also the Canadian skeptic Steven Harper. Outside of those dismissed as far right, there is virtually no serious debate about how to address climate change in the U.S. or Western Europe outside the parameters suggested by mainstream green groups.

In reality, though, few electorates anywhere are ready for extreme policies such as the Green New Deal, which, as its widely acknowledged architect, Saikat Chakrabarti, has acknowledged, is really a redder, more openly anti-capitalist version of the Great Depression-era original.

Yet getting hysterical about the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a waste of emotional energy. The real power of the environmental movement derives from those who occupy “the commanding heights” of our society – at the corporate, media, and academic realms. Though arguably not holding views as economically ludicrous as AOC’s, mainstream corporate greens are far more likely to successfully impose their version of environmental justice on the rest of us.

A finer shade of green

The modern environmental movement was launched from the top of the economic food chain. The Rockefeller Brothers, for example, funded some of the earliest environmental work, notably on population control. Today, these depositories of old money built on fossil fuels, including not just the Rockefellers but also the Fords, have become leading advocates of radical climate policies.

In 1972, the influential book Limits to Growth was published with backing from major corporate interests, led by Aurelio Peccei of Fiat. The book’s authors suggested that the earth was running out of natural resources at a rapid pace and called for establishing “global equilibrium” through restrictions on growth and “a carefully controlled balance” of population and capital. These conclusions, mostly accepted in top media, academic, and political circles, turned out to be almost comically off target, as production of food, energy, and raw materials accompanied not the predicted mass starvation but arguably the greatest rise of global living standards in history.

Yet despite this record, a growing and powerful faction of the corporate aristocracy still embraces the ideals of the Club of Rome, seeking to cut human consumption and limit economic progress. Like religious prelates in the Middle Ages, today’s environmentalists – who The Nation’s Alexander Cockburn has aptly named “greenhouse fearmongers” – see no contradiction between imposing austerity on the masses and excusing the excesses of their ultra-rich supporters. Like sinful aristocrats and merchant princes in medieval times, our “green rich” can even buy a modern version of indulgences through carbon credits and other virtue-signaling devices. This allows them to save the planet in style. In 2019, an estimated 1,500 GHG-spewing private jets were flown to Davos carrying attendees to a conference to discuss the environmental crisis. Few high-profile climate activists, including celebrities, seem willing to give up their multiple houses, yachts, or plethora of cars.

The de-growth solution

These worthies likely don’t share the notion advanced by Barry Commoner, a founding father of modern environmentalism, that “capitalism is the earth’s number one enemy.” Today’s green elites have no interest in breaking up tech oligarchies, limiting Wall Street’s financial power, or lessening the burdens of green policies on the poor and working class. Nor are they likely, at least for now, to embrace such things now bandied about by extreme green academics and activists, such as considering an insect diet, restricting meat, curbing procreation, or even advocating total human extinction.

Rather, many elites have embraced the concept of “degrowth,” which foresees less economic expansion, a declining population, and a radical end to upward mobility. One set of proposals from the IPCC endorses this notion and openly rejects “a capital-oriented culture“ seeing a more centralized approach as critical to saving the planet.” The World Economic Forum’s founder Klaus Schwab, the lord of Davos, for example, envisions the rise of a new business class motivated by “virtuous instincts” that include such things as eliminating fossil fuels. This woke corporate mindset is sold as a form of “stakeholder capitalism,” while following the progressive cultural agenda on gender and race as well.

Though couched in laudable intentions, this agenda also is remarkably self-serving. The British Marxist historian James Heartfield suggests that “Green capitalism” provides a perfect opportunity to maximize return on artificially scarcer resources, like land and agricultural products, notably through mandates and tax breaks for renewable energy. The green economy has already spawned its first mega-billionaire, Elon Musk, whose core businesses benefited enormously on regulatory and tax policies that favor his products. In the future, expect other, less innovative oligarchs happy to take advantage of centrally imposed scarcity, making money under the pretext of “human survival.”

Who pays when things don’t work

The wealthy, such as Jeff Bezos – who earlier this year gave $10 billion to environmental groups – can demand strict policies to curb climate change because they can afford the effect of these policies. It won’t restrict their ability to make billions, maintain mansions in the style of Hapsburg royalty, or fly in private jets. By contrast, oil riggers, factory employees, or construction workers who drive old trucks to work will be seriously harmed by bans on fossil fuels. For them, the forced march to a prearranged green utopia won’t be so sweet, and the promise of “green jobs” no substitute for the real thing,

For these workers and their families, the price of green piety is reduced resources for schooling, medical bills, or even food. California, with its lion’s share of multibillionaires, suffers the highest poverty rate, adjusted for costs, of any state and a widespread expansion of energy poverty. These policies are already threatening to raise costs on the east coast, where wind energy prices are estimated to be five times conventional electrical generation. Similarly, as many as one in four Germans, and three-fourths of Greeks, have cut other spending to pay their electricity bills, which is the economic definition of “energy poverty.”

To date, these negatives have done little to slow California’s madcap attempt to go “all electric.” This policy is doomed to fail as it seeks to boost electricity use while removing the most affordable and reliable ways to supply it. Worse yet, these policies will also have damaging environmental effects, forcing the creation of massive new solar plants in the state’s most vulnerable agricultural areas and open space. A 2015 study by the Carnegie Institution for Science and Stanford University suggests that building enough solar power to reduce U.S. emissions by 80 percent in 2050 could require upwards of more than 27,500 square miles, destroying both farmland and unique natural habitats along the way.

California is seeking similar emissions cuts by mandating building and transport electrification using solar and wind power, but state climate leaders have yet to disclose the location or scale of devastated land that their policies require. According to a 2019 report by The Nature Conservancy and the state’s own technical experts, as much as 3 million acres – nearly 4,700 square miles – could be sacrificed by 2050, including much of the state’s Central Valley and, if neighboring states agree, sprawling industrial development throughout the western U.S. Overall, electric-car production and solar plants pose their own, though rarely reported, environmental problems, particularly connected to mining for rare-earth materials.

The “Test run”

The tragic, and relentlessly disruptive, coronavirus lockdowns can be justified as a real response to a clear, present, and sometimes-lethal danger. But some greens also see the lockdowns as a “test run” for the kinds of regulations we may face under future green regimes. The “visionary” Davos mogul Schwab, for example, sees the pandemic as an opportunity for a major “reset,” one preliminary to a post-growth regime based on the more enlightened values of the economic elect.

This new order would follow the Davos script, locking down whole parts of the economy and restricting consumer choice, notably for housing and transportation. To sell this somewhat unpalatable agenda, greens and their elite allies have imposed an orthodoxy that excludes dissent. Today, open rational discussion about how to best protect the planet is about as rare as open debate over God’s existence would have been in the Catholic Church of the eleventh century. There’s even a movement, already adopted in France and Belgium, to make what’s called “ecocide” a crime.

Today even veteran climate scientists – such as Roger Pielke, Judith Curry, or Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, are treated as heretics for questioning global-warming orthodoxy. Longtime activists such as Michael Shellenberger and even radical propagandist Michael Moore, whose recent documentary “Planet of Humans” exposed the ecological impact and corporate profiteering of “green” power, have suffered de-platforming for offending the sensibilities of green activists and their billionaire patrons. 

This is a poor way to tackle a complex scientific issue, where open inquiry and debate are needed, observes Steve Koonin, President Obama’s undersecretary of energy for science.

Are there better, fairer solutions?

What the green end game is likely to produce is an increasingly static and hierarchical society, perhaps torn apart by raging class conflict between the oligarchs and their allies, on one side, and the beleaguered middle and working classes, on the other. We can already see signs of this in California, where Latino and African-American activists object to paying for the fantasies of the green grandees, a phenomenon also seen in grassroots movements in France, the Netherlands, and Norway. The impact on developing countries, in particular, could be severe, with potentially gruesome consequences.

But, ultimately, we may not have to choose between a better economy and a better environment.

For example, we could encourage, not ban, the substitution of cheap and plentiful natural gas for higher emission fuels, such as coal or diesel, a strategy that has already proven to substantially reduce U.S. emissions, and that could become even more effective if carbon capture or renewable gas technologies mature. We also could encourage the current trend to online dispersion of work, which could hold terrific opportunities not only for reducing emissions but also for reviving family life and encouraging entrepreneurialism.

We must not let our lives be constrained by the concentrated power of an unelected ruling class, whose agenda would reinstate a version of the hierarchical society of feudal times.

How Superficial Policies Destroy Character and Cohesion

The 2020 campaign saw Biden label Trump voters as “chumps”, adding this trash talk to Clinton’s 2016 calling them “deplorables.” This article digs into how subversive and destructive is the progressive drive to have government policies deliver outcomes regardless of individual effort and talent.  James B. Meigs explains in his article at City Journal The Chump Effect.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Progressive policies penalize those who play by the rules and shower benefits on those who don’t.

Last January, a small but telling exchange took place at an Elizabeth Warren campaign event in Grimes, Iowa. At the time, Warren was attracting support from the Democratic Party’s left flank, with her bulging portfolio of progressive proposals. “Warren Has a Plan for That” read her campaign T-shirts. The biggest buzz surrounded her $1.25 trillion plan to pay off student-loan debt for most Americans.

A man approached Warren with a question. “My daughter is getting out of school. I’ve saved all my money [so that] she doesn’t have any student loans. Am I going to get my money back?”

“Of course not,” Warren replied.

“So you’re going to pay for people who didn’t save any money, and those of us who did the right thing get screwed?”

A video of the exchange went viral. It summed up the frustration many feel over the way progressive policies so often benefit select groups, while subtly undermining others. Saving money to send your children to college used to be considered a hallmark of middle-class responsibility. By subsidizing people who run up large debts, Warren’s policy would penalize those who took that responsibility seriously. “You’re laughing at me,” the man said, when Warren seemed to wave off his concerns. “That’s exactly what you’re doing. We did the right thing and we get screwed.”

That father was expressing an emotion growing more common these days: he felt like a chump. Feeling like a chump doesn’t just mean being upset that your taxes are rising or annoyed that you’re missing out on some windfall. It’s more visceral than that. People feel like chumps when they believe that they’ve played a game by the rules, only to discover that the game is rigged. Not only are they losing, they realize, but their good sportsmanship is being exploited. The players flouting the rules are the ones who get the trophy.

Like that Iowa dad, the chumps of modern America feel that the life choices they’re most proud of—working hard, taking care of their families, being good citizens—aren’t just undervalued, but scorned.

Thousands of norms, rules, and traditions make civilized life possible. Some, like paying taxes or not littering, are enshrined in law. Others are informal. Most of us take pride in adhering to basic standards of etiquette and fairness, to say nothing of following the law. And we have a deep emotional investment in having the people around us follow these norms as well. There’s a reason that we call selfish, disruptive, or criminal behavior “antisocial.” We know that if everyone stopped paying their taxes, or started running red lights and shoplifting, our society would be on its way to collapse.

It’s bad enough when some random jerk makes you feel like a chump; it’s much worse when government policies create entire classes of chumps. Warren fizzled as a presidential candidate, but her activist positions remain very much in play, promoted by far-left Democrats and party leaders. Many of these plans would penalize people who follow traditional norms and shower benefits on those who don’t. Joe Biden’s platform includes many similar proposals, including a scaled-down college-debt plan. And, across the country, progressive governors, mayors, and district attorneys are pushing local policies—including ultra-lenient treatment of lawbreakers—that turn responsible citizens into chumps, too. The economic and ideological disruptions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests have only intensified this ongoing bifurcation of America. Call it the Chump Effect.

Both types of Chump-Effect policies—those that unfairly distribute benefits and those that normalize transgressive behavior—are dismissive of what many call bourgeois norms. Policies that selectively favor the needs, or tolerate the misdeeds, of certain groups often have the perverse corollary of undermining the norm followers. When disruptive students remain in the classroom, it’s their attentive classmates who suffer. If a big business games federal programs for an unfair advantage, smaller businesses and consumers pay the price. What’s particularly galling about such policies isn’t just that they reward norm violators—it’s that they’re predicated on the assumption that everyone else will continue adhering to the norms. That’s wishful thinking, of course. Over time, policies that excuse lax behavior by the few will begin to influence the many, corroding the standards that keep a society healthy.

Politicians ignore such primal forces at their peril. On the right, free-market advocates have long downplayed the social tensions caused by rising income inequality. Today, many young people, facing poor job prospects despite heavy education debts, see American society—and capitalism itself—as fundamentally unfair. That’s one reason the initial outrage over George Floyd’s death ballooned into a much broader protest movement. But policies promoted on the left can also lead to backlashes. Under Barack Obama, many heartland Americans believed that government policies were biased toward helping undocumented immigrants and educated elites, while undermining opportunities for the middle class. That frustration led to the Tea Party movement and, later, the stunning rise of Trump.

Democrats believe we must embed environmental justice, economic justice, and climate justice at the heart of our policy and governing agenda,” the party platform states, using the coded jargon of the modern Left. In progressive circles, “justice” doesn’t mean fairness or evenhandedness; it describes a world in which every problem is the fault of some entrenched power group. Therefore, every solution should involve both special aid for the victims and some sort of punishment for those who created the problem.

The Democratic platform promises a root-and-branch overhaul of federal programs to ensure that they operate according to elaborate calculations of race, gender, sexual orientation, and other metrics. As the country struggles through the Covid recession, for example, the party promises that funds supporting small businesses will flow preferentially to companies owned by women and minorities and promises to “combat gentrification” and offer relief from “exorbitant” rents. (Under the “justice” paradigm, landlords are guilty until proven innocent.) A Biden Department of Education would bring back Obama-era rules forbidding “disparate disciplinary treatment” of students based on race. In practice, that means that students will be disciplined not based on the frequency of their misbehavior but according to racial quotas.

Even Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan seems designed more to spread wealth among favored groups than to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

You’d think anyone who believes that climate change is an existential threat would want to build green infrastructure as quickly and as cheaply as possible—the faster it’s deployed, the quicker emissions come down, right? But in announcing his plan, Biden said, “When I think about climate change, the word I think of is ‘jobs.’” His platform proposes obligating green contractors to hire union workers, which would drive up costs dramatically. “And we will do all this with an eye towards equity, access, benefits, and ownership opportunities for frontline communities,” the platform says. In other words, expect every green project to be bogged down in endless reviews to ensure that contractors and workers represent the prescribed racial and gender mix. The plan is a recipe for high costs, slow progress—and sweetheart deals. Who pays for this? Ordinary consumers—the chumps—who will see their energy, food, and other expenses skyrocket, all for surprisingly little environmental benefit.

The platform offers sticks along with carrots. Some far-left climate advocates tend to focus more on their desire to drag energy companies into court than on the need to develop alternatives to fossil fuels. “These are criminals,” Bernie Sanders has said of fossil-fuel executives. Warren uses similar language. Biden’s platform also threatens legal action against companies that “put profit over people.” For these politicians, the top priority seems to be ensuring that the right villains are punished and the correct “frontline communities” get their subsidies. They are less interested in how much their policies will actually help the climate or how deeply they will disrupt the lives of ordinary Americans.

California is a test case in how environmental programs can wind up burdening the poor and middle class while benefiting the affluent.

For example, people who purchase electric cars in California receive a state rebate of up to $4,500 per vehicle. Given that the most popular EV in California is the luxury Tesla, with an average price of over $50,000, we can assume that few lower-income people are cashing these checks. EV owners also get the right to drive—alone—in the coveted high-occupancy vehicle lanes on the state’s crowded freeways. The upshot: while working-class chumps stew in traffic, rich Tesla owners sail by in their own special “diamond lane,” serenely isolated from the gas-burning hoi polloi.

In 2010, University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds made an offhand comment on his Instapundit blog. The government often tries to expand the middle class by subsidizing the things that middle-class people have, he observed:

If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status; they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits—self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc.—that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

Since then, that insight has been cited so often that it’s become known as Reynolds’s Law. It’s based on a deep truth: success in life isn’t determined by owning things, or even having a high income. It is largely the result of certain habits that lead to lifelong advancement—what economists call “cultural capital.”

Sadly, the values that lifted generations of immigrants out of poverty have been under thoroughgoing attack for at least two generations. In an effort not to stigmatize the poor, social-welfare reformers overshot the target and also dismantled the stigmas against behaviors that keep people poor. It became considered unseemly to criticize unwed childbearing, drug use, or even petty crime. Under the social-justice paradigm, those behaviors were reframed—not as choices but as symptoms of an unjust social structure.

In a weird revival of racist stereotypes, today’s critical-race theorists see dysfunctional behaviors occasionally found among minority groups as being emblematic of those groups. In turn, traits that help people succeed—ones shared by cultures around the world—are stigmatized as typically “white.” Earlier this year, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture explained this bizarre framework on its website. A handy chart summarized some of those “Aspects & Assumptions of Whiteness,” including “self-reliance,” “the nuclear family,” and the idea that “hard work is the key to success.” Reliance on the scientific method, mathematics, and “rational linear thinking” were also identified as instruments of white dominance.

If a secret arm of the KKK created a doctrine designed to undermine the advancement of minority communities, it could hardly do a better job than the Smithsonian’s woke theorists.

Chump-Effect policies don’t just undermine societal values; they also typically fail at their stated goals. One reason they so often backfire is that they rely on present-tense thinking. Lawmakers—and the voters they answer to—tend to look at issues in the current moment, rather than seeing them as evolving conditions. So they create policies to solve a problem for a particular group of people right now, without considering the perverse incentives that their program puts in place.

Rent control is a classic example: a ceiling on rent hikes certainly helps current tenants. But years pass; family incomes climb; children grow up. Decades later, a well-off widow might be paying minimal rent to stay in an apartment much bigger than she needs. With many people like her staying put in underutilized apartments, the price of unregulated units soars, making it hard, if not impossible, for the next generation of low-income families to find housing. Landlords, the chumps in this scenario, adjust by cutting back on maintenance, and sometimes by simply walking away from money-losing buildings. “Rent control appears to be the most efficient technique presently known to destroy a city,” writes Swedish economist Assar Lindbeck, “except for bombing.” Somehow, this reality always takes progressives by surprise. True to form, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last year proposed a federal rent control law, and she has joined in the campaign to #CancelRent in the wake of the Covid crisis.

Eliminating penalties for petty crimes is another example of present-tense thinking. Reduced penalties for “minor” offenses in several states have led to huge spikes in shoplifting and other crimes. In Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, and other cities, progressive DAs have cut back on prosecutions of many low-level crimes. The University of Chicago’s Charles Lipson calls the new policy “‘Go ahead, break our windows’ policing.” And, just as the Broken Windows theory would predict, the resulting upswing in lawbreaking goes beyond petty crime. According to the Wall Street Journal, homicides have spiked in 36 of the nation’s 50 largest cities.

Nonetheless, progressives see tolerance for transgressive behavior as a kind of moral duty. If the perpetrators are poor, or perceived as targets of injustice, the plight of their victims is a secondary concern. After all, the progressive project focuses on structural inequities—that is, the status of entire groups of people as being part of either oppressive or oppressed classes. If a particular crime—say, an unjustified police shooting of a minority suspect—seems to embody that power dynamic, it becomes the focus of national attention. There’s nothing wrong with that, in itself. Unjustified police shootings should merit calls for reform. But if crimes don’t fit the framework—say, gang-related killings, vastly more common—they get little notice. In the end, the large majority of people in poor communities who actually do follow the law are treated as chumps.

This selective focus has been on dramatic display during the months of protests following the Floyd killing. It’s true that only a small fraction of protests turned violent, but those incidents still added up to thousands of cases of looting and arson and dozens of shootings. Most didn’t make the national news. And, while the peaceful protesters have mostly returned to their lives, the violent minority is growing more emboldened.

Independent journalist Michael Tracey, who spent weeks touring overlooked riot zones in cities like Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Olympia, Washington, was shocked by the scale of the destruction. Minority and immigrant communities “bore the brunt of the damage,” he reports. Even as the violence has spread, calls to “defund the police”—even “abolish the police”—are being heeded in many cities. Budgets were being slashed even as riots continued. In Portland, the district attorney is declining to prosecute hundreds of protesters arrested for “nonviolent” crimes. (One such quickly released suspect allegedly stabbed two people to death a week later.) In short, one of the most destructive crime waves in U.S. history is being met with a collective yawn from the media and a mild scolding, at best, from some representatives of law enforcement. It wasn’t until polls started showing rising voter concern that Biden and other Democrats began cautiously criticizing the violence.

In North Minneapolis, Tracey talked with Flora Westbrooks, a black woman who had owned a hair salon there for 34 years. The business helped her earn enough to buy a house and send her son to law school. On May 29, arsonists burned it down. “Sometimes I’m like, OK, I gotta go to work,” she told Tracey. But then she remembers: “I don’t own anything anymore. Everything’s burned to the ground. I have nothing no more. Everything I worked for.” The tragedy of the Chump Effect is in stories like these. People devote their lives to making things better for themselves, their children, and their communities. They follow the bourgeois norms so disdained by the Left. Then, when our society stops defending those norms, they’re the ones who suffer.

 

Health Sciences Polluted by Critical Race Theory

Connor Harris writes at City Journal Fighting Racism Instead of Disease. Excepts in italics with my bolds.

The intrusion of critical race theory into medicine and public health threatens the well-being of all Americans—especially nonwhites.

The Covid-19 pandemic in the West has disproportionately harmed racial minorities, especially those of African descent. According to a United Nations report from June, African-Americans in the United States had twice the death rate from Covid-19 as other races, as did black and South Asian ethnic groups in the U.K. Death rates among black minority groups in France and Brazil were also markedly elevated.

Many have taken it for granted that these differences stem from poverty and racism, which force nonwhites into crowded housing and jobs with high disease exposure. For Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, Covid-19 “expose[d] what should have been obvious—that unequal access to healthcare, overcrowded housing and pervasive discrimination make our societies less stable, secure and prosperous.”

But a September 10 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association by three doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York identified another possibility: racial differences in levels of TMPRRS2, a protein in cell membranes that many viruses, including coronaviruses, use to gain access to cells. The authors reported that in a sample of 305 patients at Mount Sinai, black patients had stronger expression of the gene that codes for TMPRRS2 in the tissue lining their nostrils than white, Asian, Hispanic, or mixed-race patients.

When JAMA tweeted this study, though, dozens of Twitter users who advertised their academic credentials in medicine and public health accused the journal and the study’s authors—all nonwhite, and one a black woman—of racism. “I can’t with these folks,” said one doctor with a Master of Public Health degree. “This is sounding way too much like blaming and rings of eugenics.”

“Come on @JAMA_current do better. I hope you a) retract this paper and b) invite an editorial on why publishing articles like this in the first place is a terrible idea,” said Josh Mugele, a doctor with over 35,000 Twitter followers. One M.D.–Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin asked, “Do you have someone on your editorial board who studies racism in medicine or has a background in critical race theory? Repeatedly publishing articles that use race as biology seems to indicate you could use more expertise in that area.”

Many responses claimed that race was a “socially constructed” concept with no biological meaning.

“Race IS NOT genetic,” said one medical resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a former researcher with the World Health Organization. Another pediatrician told JAMA, “Attributing genetic variants to race (which is socially constructed) is racist. Stop. And systemic racism is why . . . BIPOC [black, indigenous, and people of color] are disproportionately harmed by COVID-19.” “It is 2020. This is unacceptable. Race is a social NOT biologic construct,” said a researcher at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Such tweets reflect the penetration of public health by critical race theory (CRT), an intellectual movement that blames racism for every ill that afflicts nonwhites. CRT is hostile to basic scientific norms of skeptical investigation, and it threatens to degrade scholarly standards in the health sciences and worsen the quality of public health—not least for racial minorities.

CRT in public health is founded on the notion that race is a “social construct” without biological meaning, so racial differences must spring from racist social structures. This idea is a corruption of a genuine sociological insight: not that race is illusory or unrelated to genetics, but that delineations of racial categories are somewhat arbitrary and can differ between societies. For example, persons of mixed European and African ancestry usually count as black in the United States, but other societies give them a separate category, such as “coloured” in South Africa and pardo in Brazil. And, to an extent, individuals in liminal racial categories can choose their racial identification: for example, increasing numbers of Hispanics in the United States identify as white.

In any case, though, Americans’ racial self-identifications line up well with genetic clusters.

And even if the genetic divisions between races are fuzzy, they remain meaningful enough that racial differences in medical conditions could stem from genetic differences. To take one clear example, African-Americans suffer Vitamin D deficiency about twice as often as whites—a condition that seems to worsen vulnerability to many respiratory diseases, including Covid-19. On the plus side, though, they contract melanoma at less than 4 percent of the rate among whites. The principal cause of both differences is genetic: dark, melanin-rich skin is less vulnerable to sun damage, conferring a Darwinian advantage in the tropics, but it is also less efficient at synthesizing Vitamin D, a drawback in high-latitude areas with weak sunlight.

Some doctors who object to using race in medicine merely warn that races are crude categories, and that racial averages can obscure within-race variation. For example, the misapprehension that sickle-cell anemia is a uniquely “black” disease, though it is as frequent in some white subgroups such as Greeks and Italians as it is in African-descended populations, has led doctors to overlook many cases among white patients.

But critical race theorists go further. CRT starts from the premise that systemic racism has corrupted the most basic structures and beliefs of society. Ostensibly genetic racial categories, in the CRT view, are themselves tools of racism: they serve to justify mistreatment of nonwhites and pass off the health harms of racism as the consequences of genetic inferiority. Pervasive racism even corrupts the scientific process itself. As Chandra Ford and Collins Airhihenbuwa, two prominent advocates for CRT in public health, put it, “the systematic nature of the scientific method enhances the reliability of empirical findings, but this does not necessarily eliminate the influence of racial bias.” Racism can be overcome, CRT says, only by explicitly race-conscious research methods that amount in practice to assuming from the outset that racism stands behind every racial disparity. Ford and Airhihenbuwa tell researchers to design studies around the assumption that “race is socially constructed [and] is less a risk factor itself than a marker of risk for racism-related exposures.”

The CRT doctrine of omnipresent racism is powerless to explain health discrepancies that disfavor whites, such as their elevated risk of skin cancer or atrial fibrillation, or the consistently lower mortality rates of Hispanics compared with whites. But it is also a severe threat to the health of racial minorities. First, CRT proponents disapprove of efforts to promote healthier behavior among minorities—or, as Boyd and her coauthors put it, “ineffective behaviorist approaches to problems that are actually institutional in nature.” This is a profoundly disempowering message. It would imply, for example, that if African-Americans smoke cigarettes to cope with the stress of racism—a common claim in studies of racism and public health—then it would be futile to persuade black smokers to quit, or to switch to less harmful alternatives such as nicotine gum or vaping, as long as racism lingers.

But more importantly, the no-causes-but-racism doctrine may stymie valuable research and lead doctors to make bad decisions for minority patients. Investigating the biological roots of racial disparities can shed valuable light on the causes of, and possible treatments for, medical problems among nonwhites. If Vitamin D deficiency, for instance, plays a role in higher Covid-19 deaths among blacks, then widespread Vitamin D supplementation could yield immediate benefits for all races and ameliorate ethnic disparities—and far faster than any redoubled effort to eliminate racial socioeconomic gaps could succeed. (One small trial in Spain has suggested that Vitamin D supplementation might virtually eliminate the need to send Covid-19 patients to the ICU.) If recent findings on the role of the TMPRRS2 protein in Covid-19 bear out in larger studies, similarly, drugs targeting that protein might reduce infection and death rates.

Critical race theory in medicine and public health, based on a misunderstanding of the concept of race and an inflexible, unfalsifiable dogma of systemic racism, is a huge obstacle to understanding health problems among racial minorities. A public health and medical profession that follows critical race theory will waste time chasing down phantom racism while overlooking genetic and biological factors that could be addressed immediately. Anyone who cares about public health and improving outcomes for nonwhites should help drive critical race theory out of the health sciences.

Love Of Theory Is The Root Of All Evil
–William M. Briggs, statistician

Will Americans Resist Progressive Revolution?

Joel Kotkin explores the public response to the leftist socialist cultural revolution fronted by mass and social media these days.  His article at City Journal is Will the Cultural Revolution Be Canceled?  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and images.

The challenge to our civilization is real, but most Americans aren’t sympathetic to social radicalism.

It’s an article of faith among many conservatives, and some liberals, that we’re being swept by a Maoist cultural revolution destined to transform American society into a woke collective. Yet before surrendering basics like equality of opportunity, social order, and free speech to leftist authoritarians, we should consider whether they’re the ones who will wind up getting canceled.

Most Americans don’t favor defunding police or instituting race quotas; they are wary of the costs connected with the Green New Deal and of allowing Washington to control local zoning. Many are already voting with their feet, fleeing places that promote these ideas and seeking out areas aligned with more recognizable American values. Over the past 20 years, virtually all the most progressive large states—New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California—have suffered massive outmigration, while red or purplish states like Florida, Texas, the Carolinas, or Arizona welcome more and more Americans to resettle there. On the metropolitan level, even before Covid-19 accelerated the trend, a steady, largely unacknowledged, movement from the deep-blue core to the less progressive suburbs or exurbs has been underway.

Political correctness—the secular religion of elite liberal society—turns out to be enormously unpopular, something President Trump has exploited politically.

Some 80 percent of Americans, notes one recent survey, including most millennials and minorities, see political correctness as “a problem,” not a solution for the future. Progressive social activists, a survey by the liberal research organization More in Common found, account for barely 8 percent of the adult population, less than a third of the number who identify as traditional conservatives.

The fact that most Americans—Democrat and Republican—fall between these two categories suggests that social attitudes may be far less polarized, and less susceptible to political correctness, than has been widely assumed. As seen in the reaction to the George Floyd case, most Americans generally back the police but also embrace the notion of police reform; they are increasingly hostile, however, to the wave of violence that has accompanied some of the protests. Rather than support growing attempts to limit free speech, almost four in five Americans, according to Pew, support protecting it. These attitudes extend well beyond the base of Trumpian conservatives to include most Americans, regardless of ethnic background.

Media Not Trustworthy

The media epitomize the gap between the public and the nation’s dominant institutions. Subjectivity, notes a recent Rand study, has replaced the world of shared facts with approaches that lead to “truth decay.” Reporters once believed that their mission was to inform the public, but now many journalism schools, including Columbia, embrace progressive groupthink, openly advancing a leftist social-justice agenda in which reporters are advocates. Even Teen Vogue has taken a neo-Marxist tack. “Moral clarity” replaces objectivity. Free speech is somehow linked to white privilege.

These partisan attitudes have dramatically eroded trust in media, according to a new Knight Foundation study. Public trust in most large media has declined steadily over the past four years, with the biggest drops among Republicans; the New York Times, the publisher of the 1619 Project takedown of American history, is trusted by less than half of the public, compared with almost 60 percent in 2016. Gallup reports that, since the pandemic, the news media has suffered the lowest ratings of any major institution, performing even worse than Congress or President Trump.

Certainly, the shift leftward has not helped the progressive-dominated newspaper business. Between 2001 and 2017, the publishing industry (books, newspapers, magazines) lost 290,000 jobs, a decline of 40 percent. Endless partisan sniping and countless crises have boosted CNN, but the network lags well behind right-wing Fox. NPR has seen its ratings drop as many listeners gravitate to less predictable, livelier voices like Joe Rogan.

The new media also suffer from a credibility crisis. Controllers like those at Facebook, Google, Apple, and Twitter are increasingly determined to curate “quality content” on their sites, or even eliminate views they find objectionable, which tend to be conservative, according to employees. The idea that managers of huge social-media platforms aim to control content is more than conservative paranoia. Over 70 percent of Americans, according to a recent Pew study, believe that such platforms—as demonstrated in the case of Reddit, Facebook, and Google—“censor political views.” In California, the center of Big Tech, people express more trust in the marijuana industry than they do in social media, according to a 2019 survey.

Decaying Arts and Entertainment

A similar trend is at work in arts and entertainment, where partisanship has rapidly become the standard. Once divided between conservatives and liberals, Hollywood, in the words of liberal journalist Jonathan Chait, now exhibits “a pervasive, if not total, liberalism.” This tilt reflects the political views of the executives: over 99 percent of all political donations by major entertainment executives in 2018 went to Democrats.

In the past, however, many filmmakers, liberal and conservative, tried to separate politics from the business of art; today, priority often goes to gender issues and racial grievance. Quality films with broad popularity—in the vein of the The Sound of Music, The Godfather, or, more recently, Lord of the Rings—rarely win the top prizes anymore. Instead, award-winning films largely are chosen for their appeal to insiders, even as they generally do at best modest box office. To make money, Hollywood resorts to producing superhero movies.

This phenomenon is likely to get worse before it gets better. Just recently, the Academy announced that applicants for Best Picture must fulfill quotas for minorities, women, the disabled, and gays. Under these conditions, some suggest, even as brilliant a film as the Oscar-nominated 1917—set in World War I trenches—would face tough barriers since its cast, and directors, were all white men.

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Americans are not enthusiastically embracing the new cultural orthodoxy. Many may share progressive views on gender and the environment, but they don’t necessarily want to spend their free time being reeducated.

Before Covid, the audience for awards shows such as the Emmys and Oscars, increasingly disconnected from the values and tastes of many Americans, had already dropped to record lows. And since the pandemic, the ratings, as seen in the Emmys, have headed down still further. Attendance at theaters plunged even before Covid, and the prospects for a strong recovery—given an unappealing product for many—seem limited.

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Political Corruption of Sports

Much the same can be said about television and sports. Ratings for politicized media like ESPN have plummeted. The decision by A&E to drop its popular Live PD show—made to appease anti-police sentiment—cost it roughly half its viewers. The industry may be thriving in its progressive lane, but it’s clearly out of touch with much of its market.

Even sports are losing their allure. Even as much of the population remains quarantined at home, ratings for the National Basketball Association—the wokest league of them all—have cratered, falling behind Fox’s Tucker Carlson, not someone who appeals beyond the right. With players “taking the knee” and threatening walkouts after reported police incidents, the numbers are also way down for Major League Baseball and the National Football League. Perhaps Americans would prefer some entertainment in these hard times, and not to have to listen to “social justice” rhetoric from the likes of LeBron “Peking” James, a multimillionaire and passionate defender of the league’s Chinese sponsors.

college grad by jimbob

Educational Malaise

Higher education has served as master instructor and amplifier for the new orthodoxy, but impatience is growing with the performance of our schools. College students are graduating with fixed ideas about racial politics but few real-world skills. One recent study of American college students found that more than one-third “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over four years of college. The products of today’s universities maintain rigid positions on various issues, confident of their superior intelligence and perspicuity. Employers also report that recent graduates are short on critical-thinking skills.

Many colleges were hurting before Covid-19, with a growing percentage of enrollees engaged in online learning. Many students and parents, particularly at less prestigious schools, are questioning the cost of higher education. And universities have been losing confidence with a majority of Americans, according to Gallup. Employers—including Google and Elon Musk—are more willing to challenge the validity of degrees. If this trend continues, the whole university structure faces a challenging future. In examining some 442 American universities, NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway estimates that more than 20 percent could fail because of the lockdowns, and that another 30 percent will struggle to stay afloat.

It would be overly optimistic to imagine that the cultural revolution will fade away of its own accord. A taste for authoritarian solutions, Right or Left, is usually acquired. This is not a liberal or conservative struggle; it is a civilizational one. If nearly 40 percent of young Americans think that the country lacks “a history to be proud of,” they won’t see anything precious to protect. A civilization can survive only if its members, particularly those with the greatest influence, believe in its basic values.

Unfortunately, we can’t count on our elites in the academy, the media, the corporate hierarchy, or even the clergy to support the core values of American democracy.

Not anymore. Only stubborn resistance from the middle and working classes can push back against an assault being largely directed from above. “Happy the nation whose people have not forgotten how to rebel,” wrote British historian R. H. Tawney. It’s up to Americans everywhere, regardless of their party registration, to put a halt to a cultural revolution that our children may otherwise inherit.

R.I.P. American Science

Alex Berezow describes the demise in his ACHS article The Slow Suicide Of American Science.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Science in the U.S. is under assault by postmodernism, political partisanship, and trial lawyers. Without a change in the direction of our culture, American technological supremacy is facing an existential threat.

I’ve always been bullish about American scientific and technological supremacy, not in some starry-eyed, jingoistic way, but due to the simple reality that the United States remains the world’s research and development engine.

This is true for at least four reasons, which I detailed previously: (1) Superior higher education; (2) A cultural attitude that encourages innovation; (3) Substantial funding and financial incentives; and (4) A legal framework that protects intellectual property and tolerates failure through efficient bankruptcy laws. There’s a fifth, fuzzier reason, namely that smart and talented people have long gravitated toward the U.S.

But while Americans believe in unalienable rights endowed by our Creator, we are not similarly guaranteed everlasting technological supremacy. China is already challenging the U.S. in computer science, chemistry, engineering, and robotics. Without a consistent and relentless pursuit of excellence, the eagle risks losing its perch.

Unfortunately, there are a confluence of factors that, when combined, constitute an existential threat to American science: Postmodernism, political partisanship, and trial lawyers.

Postmodernism.

Though nobody can actually define postmodernism, it is characterized by a rejection of objective truth. This toxic ideology is rampant in academia and gaining popularity in the broader culture. Its most nefarious manifestation is Critical Theory, which derives from Marxism and posits that society is nothing but a hierarchy of oppressors and the oppressed. Out of this nonsense comes the absurd belief that the scientific method and even knowledge itself are tools of the white patriarchy.

Does this all sound too ridiculous to be real? Alas, it is. Until it received a public backlash, the Smithsonian published a web page claiming that an “emphasis on the scientific method” and a focus on “objective, rational linear thinking” are examples of “white culture.” Investigations into the biological differences between men and women (of which there are many) are deemed sexist. Information of any kind that offends the listener is labeled “fake news.”

In reality, a nation that can no longer tell the difference between truth and lies may be facing societal decline.

Political partisanship.

There was a time when scientists knew better than to deal in politics. That time is now gone. Openly cheering for one side of the political spectrum over the other, scientists and science media outlets are gambling with their reputation.

For the first time in its 175-year history, Scientific American foolishly endorsed a presidential candidate, apparently blind to the fact that the once esteemed magazine avoided politics for nearly two centuries for a very good reason. Not to be left behind, the editor-in-chief of the internationally renowned journal Science penned an editorial about why he doesn’t like President Trump. 314 Action, a political group that seeks to elect scientists into public office, doesn’t even bother reaching out to the other side of the aisle.

This will all backfire. One of the quickest ways to destroy one’s credibility is by being overtly political, yet more of the scientific community is doing precisely that. Once credibility is lost, trust and funding often go along with it.

Trial lawyers.

Like vultures hunting for a carcass on a desert highway, trial lawyers lurk in the background, swooping down to win jackpot verdicts against large firms, often those in the agricultural technology and pharmaceutical industries. The pattern is always the same: Activists blame chemical X for causing disease Y, usually based on very flimsy evidence, and then lawyers sue the largest multi-billion-dollar company they can find in the hope of making it rain money. Because of this, we have termed this cabal the activist-legal complex. Its arsenal of pseudoscientific tricks often works. Just ask Monsanto or Johnson & Johnson.

Worse, trial lawyers undermine the integrity of science by pitting one scientist against another. Usually, one of them is correct and endorses the scientific consensus, while the other is spouting nonsense. (As it turns out, you can find a crackpot on just about any given topic. There are a handful of biologists who deny that HIV causes AIDS, for instance.) This gives juries and judges (and the public) the impression that scientific analysis is simply one opinion among many.

Self-Inflicted Wounds Cut the Deepest

Societal decline is a choice. So is the coming decline of American technological supremacy. The good news is that, though these self-inflicted wounds are substantial, they are not irreversible. Postmodernism could be an intellectual fad that evaporates in the coming years. Likewise, political partisanship has waxed and waned over the decades and will hopefully wane once again. Laws can be implemented that put a leash on trial lawyers.

But these things require effort and a change in mindset. Barring a substantial shift in the cultural winds, we may be witnessing the slow suicide of American science.

Background:  Warmists and Rococo Marxists.

Left and Right on Climate (and so much else)

I just happened upon the video above, which explains so clearly the Left and Right orientations of people in society.  Transcript below in italics with my bolds.

Jordan Peterson Responds to Question about Social Issues like Climate

Q: So what is your advice to young people, when you talk about you need to be individually responsible, but when they’re things that are so far out of our control, like climate catastrophe, like the precarious job economy, like, what is your answer?

JP: Things are not so far out of control as you think. Do you think that you’re worse off than your grandparents?
(I think they’re a different challenge.)
Do you think you’re worse off than your grandparents?

Q: The argument, I think, is that individual responsibility does not fix some things.  The climate problem needs global collective responsibility. So I think that’s the core of the question. Do you have a theory about that?

JP: Well, fundamentally, I’m a psychologist. And my experience has been that people can do a tremendous amount of good for themselves, and for the people who are immediately around them, by looking to their own inadequacies and their own flaws and the things that they’re not doing in their lives. By starting to build themselves up as more powerful individuals, and if they’re capable of doing that, then they’re capable of expanding their career.

JP: And if they’re capable of expanding their career and their competence, then they’re capable of taking their place in the community as effective leaders. And then they’re capable of making wise decisions instead of unwise decisions when it comes to making collective political decisions. I’m not suggesting in the least, and have never suggested that there’s no domain for social action.

I’m suggesting that people who don’t have their own houses in order should be very careful before they go about reorganizing the world, which happens in many ways.

Q: If a young person believes that the climate the global warming problem on the climate is something that needs to be tackled quickly, and they can’t wait until they grow up and become prime ministers to do it, do you think collective responsibility overrides individual responsibility in a huge issue like that?

JP: No. I don’t think that is generally the case. I think generally people have things that are more within their personal purview that are more difficult to deal with and that they’re avoiding. And generally, the way they avoid them is by adopting pseudo moralistic stances on large scale social issues so that they look good to their friends and their neighbors.

Commentary by Dennis Prager

That’s a major difference between the right and the left, concerning the way each seeks to improve society. Conservatives believe that the way to a better society is almost always through the moral improvement of the individual by each person doing battle with his or her own weaknesses, and flaws. It is true that in violent and evil society such as fascist Communist or Islam is tyrannies, the individual must be preoccupied with battling outside forces. Almost everywhere else, though, certainly in a free and decent country such as America, the greatest Battle of the individual must be with inner forces, that is with his or her moral failings.

The left on the other hand, believes that the way to a better society is almost always through doing battle with society’s moral failings. Thus, in America, the left concentrates its efforts on combating sexism, racism, intolerance, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, and the many other evils that the left believes permeate American society.

One important consequence of this left right distinction is that those on the left are far more preoccupied with politics than those on the Right. Since the left is so much more interested in fixing society than in fixing the individual, politics inevitably becomes the vehicle for societal improvement. That’s why whenever the term activist is used, we almost always assume that the term refers to someone on the left.

Another consequence of this left right difference is that since conservatives believe society has changed one person at a time, they accept that change happens gradually. This isn’t fast enough for the left, which is always in everywhere focused on social revolution. An excellent example of this was a statement by the then presidential candidate Barack Obama, just days before his first election in 2008. To our rapturous audience, he declared, we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.

Conservatives not only have no interest in fundamentally transforming the United States of America, they are strongly opposed to doing so. Conservatives understand that fundamentally transforming any society that isn’t fundamentally bad, not to mention transforming what is one of the most decent societies in history can only make the society worse. Conservatives believe that America can be improved, but should not be transformed, let alone fundamentally transformed.

The founders of the United States recognized that the transformation that every generation must work on is the moral transformation of each citizen. Thus, character development was at the core of both child rearing and of young people’s education from elementary school through college. As John Adams, the second president said, our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people, it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. And in the words of Benjamin Franklin, only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. Why is that? Because freedom requires self control, the free or the society, the more self control is necessary. If the majority of people don’t control themselves, the state, meaning an ever more powerful government, will have to control them.

From the founding of the United States until the 1960s, schools and parents concentrated on character education. But with the ascent of left wing ideas, character education has all but disappeared from American schools. Instead, children are taught not to focus on their flaws, but on America’s social issues have replaced character education. An example is a new K through 12 science curriculum, the next generation of science standards, which will teach young Americans starting in kindergarten about global warming. And when they get to college, American young people will be taught about the need to fight economic inequality, white privilege, and the alleged rape culture on their campuses.

Ironically, if there really is a rape culture that permeates American college campuses, the only reason would have to be that there was so little character education in our schools, or for that matter at home. Fathers and religion, historically the two primary conveyors of self control, are non existent in the lives of millions of American children. We are now producing vast numbers of Americans who are passionate about fixing America while doing next to nothing about fixing their own character.

The problem, however, is that you can’t make society better unless you first make its people better.

Footnote:  Background Resource Cosmic Evil: Peterson’s Pearls (4)

Or take note of Bob Dylan’s advice:

Separate Stories and Solitudes

Rod Dreher writes at American Conservative about the chasm opening and dividing the previous United States.  His article is titled Joe Rogan World Vs. NPR World, but those words don’t reveal the importance or depth of his insights.   He starts with a familiar experience of hearing newscasting perverted by an agenda.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.  

Yesterday when I drove up to the country to visit my mother, I listened to NPR until I couldn’t take it anymore. There was a story about black Mormons. Normally I would have found that compelling, given my interest in religion. The Mormon religion used to be formally racist, but changed its teaching. What is it like to live as a black Mormon? That’s a story that interests me. Or normally would, but I swear, I turned off the radio. Why?

It had nothing to do with the black Mormons. It had to do with NPR. I thought: they’re only interested in Mormons so they can find some new way to talk about American racism.

It feels like every time I get in the car and turn on the radio, I don’t have to wait long before I hear a story that highlights in some new way what a racist country America is, or how hard illegal immigrants have it in America, or how put-upon sexual minorities are, and so forth. I don’t know if NPR’s liberalism has always been like this, or if it has gotten worse — or if I have simply become thin-skinned about these issues. I have always known NPR was liberal, but that didn’t stop me from being a big fan, and even a contributing member. I feel that my NPR — the NPR that I cherished, even though it was liberal and I am conservative — has gone away, and I don’t know why. I used to love listening to it in the car, and not conservative talk radio, because I don’t want to have a voice on the radio rubbing my nose into some political narrative. NPR used to stand out because it proposed new ways of seeing the world, or at least ways that seemed new to me as a conservative. Now listening to NPR is giving oneself over to hosts who seek to impose a worldview that constantly says, about people who don’t fit the progressive narrative, that you aren’t worthy of our consideration or attention. That you are what’s wrong with America.

I don’t mean to beat up NPR alone. I have the same experience reading The New York Times. Most conservatives I know don’t listen to NPR or read the Times, and could not care less about them. They assume that NPR and the NYT hate them, so they have no agony over failed expectations. But I have been listening to NPR and reading the NYT long enough to know that something has changed with those two institutions — again, institutions that I’ve always known were liberal, but loved anyway. If I had never learned to care about them, I wouldn’t get so wound up about it now.

That, and the fact that those institutions are such important bellwethers of elite opinion. You may not care what’s in the Times or on NPR, but the people who do are those who ultimately control a lot of things in your life. Never, ever forget the lessons in these two passages from Live Not By Lies:

It’s possible to miss the onslaught of totalitarianism, precisely because we have a misunderstanding of how its power works. In 1951, poet and literary critic Czesław Miłosz, exiled to the West from his native Poland as an anti-communist dissident, wrote that Western people misunderstand the nature of communism because they think of it only in terms of “might and coercion.”

“That is wrong,” he wrote. “There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.”

In The Captive Mind, Miłosz said that communist ideology filled a void that had opened in the lives of early twentieth-century intellectuals, most of whom had ceased to believe in religion.

This is why NPR sounds like Vatican Radio from the Church of Secular Progressivism, and this is why The New York Times reads like L’Osservatore Romano of the same pseudo-religion. More from Live Not By Lies:

In our populist era, politicians and talk-radio polemicists can rile up a crowd by denouncing elites. Nevertheless, in most societies, intellectual and cultural elites determine its long-term direction. “[T]he key actor in history is not individual genius but rather the network and the new institutions that are created out of those networks,” writes sociologist James Davison Hunter.

Though a revolutionary idea might emerge from the masses, says Hunter, “it does not gain traction until it is embraced and propagated by elites” working through their “well-developed networks and powerful institutions.”

This is why it is critically important to keep an eye on intellectual discourse. Those who do not will leave the gates unguarded. As the Polish dissident and émigré Czesław Miłosz put it, “It was only toward the middle of the twentieth century that the inhabitants of many European countries came, in general unpleasantly, to the realization that their fate could be influenced directly by intricate and abstruse books of philosophy.

This is how Your Working Boy gets from, “Black Mormons — hey, that’s interesting. I’d like to know more about what they went through” — which would be my stance in normal times — to “Black Mormons? Just one more NPR story about what a racist, oppressive, worthless country this is” to

“NPR continues to tell the elites a narrative that they will use to tear this country down and rebuild it according to their ideological values.”

All of that is prelude to Douglas Murray’s recent piece in Unherd, in which he observes that America really does look like a country that is coming apart, because it lacks a shared story. Excerpts:

But while it’s certainly arguable that Trump has aggravated America’s problems and divisions, he certainly didn’t create them. The divide long pre-dates him and has grown and grown in recent years, to the point where the different parties look increasingly irreconcilable. That is because these divisions go right to the core of what it means to be American.

When Eric Kaufmann recently carried out opinion polls on self-described “liberals” in the US, the results were startling but not surprising. For instance, around 80% of respondents said that they would approve of the writing of a new American constitution “that better reflects our diversity as a people”. A similar number said that they would approve of a new national anthem and flag, for the same reason.

And over the last few months, some of the more activist section of the American “liberal” tribe have taken matters into their own hands, with statues pulled down across the country, not just of Confederate generals or people associated with the divisive elements of American history, but men who once united the American public. Who once represented and defined their shared history as a great nation.

When statues of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington are pulled down, this no longer looks like a critique of certain aspects of American culture: it looks like an attack on the American Founding story. When senior Democrats like Tammy Duckworth — who has served in her country’s military — refuse to condemn attacks on statues of the Founding Fathers it becomes clear that this attitude is not confined to some street-protest fringes.

More:

It is becoming harder to communicate across the gulf, as, increasingly, the two Americas cannot consort or discuss with each other. And if there is one reason above all why that should be the case it is because they no longer have a shared story.

A portion of the American people still revere their history, the Founding Fathers, the constitution, flag, anthem and much more. They see it as symbols of a glorious past, a country which has fought for its own and others’ liberty, and the once-admired idea of American exceptionalism.

Another portion believe that America is exceptional only in being exceptionally bad. Rather than thinking well of their country or their forebears they see the whole American experiment as unusually unfair and uncommonly unequal.

What’s more, I am associated, via my writing here and in The Benedict Option, with a pessimistic view of our liberal democracy’s sustainability. I think that Patrick Deneen is basically correct in his Why Liberalism Failed: it failed because it succeeded so very well in creating a hyper-individualist society.

Liberal democracy cannot work without a metastory to set its boundaries.

We had that story when America was more or less Christian, but we are now moving out of the secularized Christianity of the Enlightenment, and into Nietzsche’s dark prophecy of what would happen once we realized that we have killed God. There will be no clinging to Christian morality, with its claims of human rights, without the Christian god.

What we have, with the woke, is a pseudo-religion that tries to ape Christianity without Christianity’s sense of mercy, and without its tragic awareness that, in Solzhenitsyn’s memorable phrase, the line between good and evil passes not between peoples, classes, and nations, but down the middle of every human heart.

See Also:  Democracy in Peril

The most basic thing one needs to know about a democratic regime, then, is this: You need to have at least two legitimate political parties for democracy to work. By a legitimate political party, I mean one that is recognized by its rivals as having a right to rule if it wins an election. For example, a liberal party may grant legitimacy to a conservative party (even though they don’t like them much), and in return this conservative party may grant legitimacy to a liberal party (even though they don’t like them much). Indeed, this is the way most modern democratic nations have been governed.

But legitimacy is one of those traditional political concepts that Marxist criticism is now on the verge of destroying.

From the Marxist point of view, our inherited concept of legitimacy is nothing more than an instrument the ruling classes use to perpetuate injustice and oppression. The word legitimacy takes on its true meaning only with reference to the oppressed classes or groups that the Marxist sees as the sole legitimate rulers of the nation. In other words, Marxist political theory confers legitimacy on only one political party—the party of the oppressed, whose aim is the revolutionary reconstitution of society. And this means that the Marxist political framework cannot co-exist with democratic government. Indeed, the entire purpose of democratic government, with its plurality of legitimate parties, is to avoid the violent reconstitution of society that Marxist political theory regards as the only reasonable aim of politics.

Simply put, the Marxist framework and democratic political theory are opposed to one another in principle.

Background from a previous post, American Soviet Mentality

Izabella Tabarovsky draws on her experience of Soviet Russia to expose the cultural revolution currently attacking the roots of American civil society.  Her article at the Tablet is The American Soviet Mentality. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Collective demonization invades our culture

Russians are fond of quoting Sergei Dovlatov, a dissident Soviet writer who emigrated to the United States in 1979: “We continuously curse Comrade Stalin, and, naturally, with good reason. And yet I want to ask: who wrote four million denunciations?” It wasn’t the fearsome heads of Soviet secret police who did that, he said. It was ordinary people.

Collective demonizations of prominent cultural figures were an integral part of the Soviet culture of denunciation that pervaded every workplace and apartment building. Perhaps the most famous such episode began on Oct. 23, 1958, when the Nobel committee informed Soviet writer Boris Pasternak that he had been selected for the Nobel Prize in literature—and plunged the writer’s life into hell. Ever since Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago had been first published the previous year (in Italy, since the writer could not publish it at home) the Communist Party and the Soviet literary establishment had their knives out for him. To the establishment, the Nobel Prize added insult to grave injury.

None of those who joined the chorus of condemnation, naturally, had read the novel—it would not be formally published in the USSR until 30 years later. But that did not stop them from mouthing the made-up charges leveled against the writer. It was during that campaign that the Soviet catchphrase “ne chital, no osuzhdayu”—“didn’t read, but disapprove”—was born: Pasternak’s accusers had coined it to protect themselves against suspicions of having come in contact with the seditious material. Days after accepting the Nobel Prize, Pasternak was forced to decline it. Yet demonization continued unabated.

Some of the greatest names in Soviet culture became targets of collective condemnations—composers Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev; writers Anna Akhmatova and Iosif Brodsky; and many others. Bouts of hounding could go on for months and years, destroying people’s lives, health and, undoubtedly, ability to create. (The brutal onslaught undermined Pasternak’s health. He died from lung cancer a year and a half later.) But the practice wasn’t reserved for the greats alone. Factories, universities, schools, and research institutes were all suitable venues for collectively raking over the coals a hapless, ideologically ungrounded colleague who, say, failed to show up for the “voluntary-obligatory,” as a Soviet cliché went, Saturday cleanups at a local park, or a scientist who wanted to emigrate. The system also demanded expressions of collective condemnations with regards to various political matters: machinations of imperialism and reactionary forces, Israeli aggression against peaceful Arab states, the anti-Soviet international Zionist conspiracy. It was simply part of life.

Twitter has been used as a platform for exercises in unanimous condemnation
for as long as it has existed.

Countless careers and lives have been ruined as outraged mobs have descended on people whose social media gaffes or old teenage behavior were held up to public scorn and judged to be deplorable and unforgivable. But it wasn’t until the past couple of weeks that the similarity of our current culture with the Soviet practice of collective hounding presented itself to me with such stark clarity. Perhaps it was the specific professions and the cultural institutions involved—and the specific acts of writers banding together to abuse and cancel their colleagues—that brought that sordid history back.

On June 3, The New York Times published an opinion piece that much of its progressive staff found offensive and dangerous. (The author, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, had called to send in the military to curb the violence and looting that accompanied the nationwide protests against the killing of George Floyd.) The targets of their unanimous condemnation, which was gleefully joined by the Twitter proletariat, which took pleasure in helping the once-august newspaper shred itself to pieces in public, were New York Times’ opinion section editor James Bennet, who had ultimate authority for publishing the piece, though he hadn’t supervised its editing, and op-ed staff editor and writer Bari Weiss (a former Tablet staffer).

Weiss had nothing to do with editing or publishing the piece. On June 4, however, she posted a Twitter thread characterizing the internal turmoil at the Times as a “civil war” between the “(mostly young) wokes” who “call themselves liberals and progressives” and the “(mostly 40+) liberals” who adhere to “the principles of civil libertarianism.” She attributed the behavior of the “wokes” to their “safetyism” worldview, in which “the right of people to feel emotionally and psychologically safe trumps what were previously considered core liberal values, like free speech.”  See Update: Stories vs. Facts

It was just one journalist’s opinion, but to Weiss’ colleagues her semi-unflattering description of the split felt like an intolerable attack against the collective. Although Weiss did not name anyone in either the “woke” or the older “liberal” camp, her younger colleagues felt collectively attacked and slandered. They lashed out. Pretty soon, Weiss was trending on Twitter.

As the mob’s fury kicked into high gear, the language of collective outrage grew increasingly strident, even violent.

Goldie Taylor, writer and editor-at-large at The Daily Beast, queried in a since-deleted tweet why Weiss “still got her teeth.” With heads rolling at the Times—James Bennet resigned, and deputy editorial page editor James Dao was reassigned to the newsroom—one member of the staff asked for Weiss to be fired for having bad-mouthed “her younger newsroom colleagues” and insulted “all of our foreign correspondents who have actually reported from civil wars.” (It was unclear how she did that, other than having used the phrase “civil war” as a metaphor.)

Mehdi Hasan, a columnist with the Intercept, opined to his 880,000 Twitter followers that it would be strange if Weiss retained her job now that Bennet had been removed. He suggested that her thread had “mocked” her nonwhite colleagues. (It did not.) In a follow-up tweet Hasan went further, suggesting that to defend Weiss would make one a bad anti-racist—a threat based on a deeply manipulated interpretation of Weiss’ post, yet powerful enough to stop his followers from making the mistake.

All of us who came out of the Soviet system bear scars of the practice of unanimous condemnation, whether we ourselves had been targets or participants in it or not. It is partly why Soviet immigrants are often so averse to any expressions of collectivism: We have seen its ugliest expressions in our own lives and our friends’ and families’ lives. It is impossible to read the chastising remarks of Soviet writers, for whom Pasternak had been a friend and a mentor, without a sense of deep shame. Shame over the perfidy and lack of decency on display. Shame at the misrepresentations and perversions of truth. Shame at the virtue signaling and the closing of rank. Shame over the momentary and, we now know, fleeting triumph of mediocrity over talent.

In a collectivist culture, one hoped-for result of group condemnations is control—both over the target of abuse and the broader society. When sufficiently broad levels of society realize that the price of nonconformity is being publicly humiliated, expelled from the community of “people of goodwill” (another Soviet cliché) and cut off from sources of income, the powers that be need to work less hard to enforce the rules.

For the regular people—those outside prestigious cultural institutions—participation in local versions of collective hounding was not without its benefits, either. It could be an opportunity to eliminate a personal enemy or someone who was more successful and, perhaps, occupied a position you craved. You could join in condemning a neighbor at your cramped communal flat, calculating that once she was gone, you could add some precious extra square meters to your living space.

The mobs that perform the unanimous condemnation rituals of today do not follow orders from above. But that does not diminish their power to exert pressure on those under their influence.

Those of us who came out of the collectivist Soviet culture understand these dynamics instinctively. You invoked the “didn’t read, but disapprove” mantra not only to protect yourself from suspicions about your reading choices but also to communicate an eagerness to be part of the kollektiv—no matter what destructive action was next on the kollektiv’s agenda. You preemptively surrendered your personal agency in order to be in unison with the group. And this is understandable in a way: Merging with the crowd feels much better than standing alone.

Americans have discovered the way in which fear of collective disapproval breeds self-censorship and silence, which impoverish public life and creative work. The double life one ends up leading—one where there is a growing gap between one’s public and private selves—eventually begins to feel oppressive. For a significant portion of Soviet intelligentsia (artists, doctors, scientists), the burden of leading this double life played an important role in their deciding to emigrate.

Those who join in the hounding face their own hazards. The more loyalty you pledge to a group that expects you to participate in rituals of collective demonization, the more it will ask of you and the more you, too, will feel controlled. How much of your own autonomy as a thinking, feeling person are you willing to sacrifice to the collective? What inner compromises are you willing to make for the sake of being part of the group? Which personal relationships are you willing to give up?

From my vantage point, this cultural moment in these United States feels incredibly precarious.

The practice of collective condemnation feels like an assertion of a culture that ultimately tramples on the individual and creates an oppressive society. Whether that society looks like Soviet Russia, or Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, or Castro’s Cuba, or today’s China, or something uniquely 21st-century American, the failure of institutions and individuals to stand up to mob rule is no longer an option we can afford.

Comment:  Precarious, indeed.  For Background, See Patriotism vs. Multiculturalism

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School’s Back: Indoctrination Resumes

“Say what you want about the Liberal Arts, but they have found a cure for common sense.”

Walter E. Williams explains in his article Back To College, Back To Academic Brainwashing Excerpts in italics with my bolds. H/T IceCap

Parents, legislators, taxpayers, and others footing the bill for college education might be interested in just what is in store for the upcoming academic year.

Since many college classes will be online, there is a chance to witness professors indoctrinating their students in real time. So, there’s a chance that some college faculty might change their behavior. To see recent examples of campus nonsense and indoctrination, visit the Campus Reform and College Fix websites.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, warned congressional lawmakers “that Antifa is ‘winning’ and that much of academia, whether wittingly or unwittingly, is complicit in its success,” reported Campus Reform.

In his testimony before Congress Turley said:

To Antifa, people like me are the personification of the classical liberal view of free speech that perpetuates a system of oppression and abuse. I wish I could say that my view remains strongly implanted in our higher educational institutions. However, you are more likely to find public supporters for restricting free speech than you are to find defenders of free speech principles on many campuses.

The leftist bias at our colleges and universities has many harmful effects. A mathematics professor at University of California, Davis, faced considerable backlash over her opposition to the requirement for “diversity statements” from potential faculty.

Those seeking employment at the University of California, San Diego, are required to admit that “barriers” prevent women and minorities from full participation in campus life.

At American University, a history professor wrote a book calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. A Rutgers University professor said: “Watching the Iowa Caucus is a sickening display of the overrepresentation of whiteness.”

A Williams College professor has advocated the inclusion of social justice in math textbooks. Students at Wayne State University are no longer required to take a single math course to graduate; however, they may soon be required to take a diversity course.

Maybe some students will be forced into sharing the vision of Laurie Rubel, a math education professor at Brooklyn College. She says the idea of cultural neutrality in math is a “myth,” and that asking whether 2 plus 2 equals 4 “reeks of white supremacist patriarchy.”

Rubel tweeted: “Y’all must know that the idea that math is objective or neutral IS A MYTH.”

Math professors and academics at other universities, including Harvard and the University of Illinois, discussed the “Eurocentric” roots of American mathematics. As for me, I would like to see the proof, in any culture, that 2 plus 2 is something other than 4.

Rutgers University’s English department chairwoman, Rebecca Walkowitz, announced changes to the department’s graduate writing program emphasizing “social justice” and “critical grammar.”

Leonydus Johnson, a speech-language pathologist and libertarian activist, says Walkowitz’s changes make the assumption that minorities cannot understand traditional and grammatically correct English speech and writing, which is “insulting, patronizing, and in itself, extremely racist.”

Then there is the nonsense taught on college campuses about white privilege. The idea of white privilege doesn’t explain why several historically marginalized groups outperform whites today.

For example, Japanese Americans suffered under the Alien Land Law of 1913 and other racist, exclusionary laws legally preventing them from owning land and property in more than a dozen American states until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.

During World War II, more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned. However, by 1959, the income disparity between Japanese Americans and white Americans had almost disappeared.

Today, Japanese Americans outperform white Americans by large margins in income statistics, education outcomes, and test scores, and have much lower incarceration rates.

According to Rav Arora, writing for the New York Post, several black immigrant groups such as Nigerians, Trinidadians, Tobagonians, Barbadians, and Ghanaians all “have a median household income well above the American average.”

We are left with the question whether the people handing out “white privilege” made a mistake. The other alternative is that Japanese Americans, Nigerians, Barbadians, Ghanaians, Trinidadians, and Tobagonians are really white Americans.

The bottom line is that more Americans need to pay attention to the miseducation of our youth and that miseducation is not limited to higher education.

Walter E. Williams, a columnist for The Daily Signal, is a professor of economics at George Mason University.

 

 

 

 

JimBob weighs in on “progressive” education.

 

And a final word from Dilbert:

Democracy in Peril

Yoram Hazony explains the dire situation in USA, with global implications in his essay The Challenge of Marxism at The Quillette.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

We don’t know what will happen for certain. But based on the experience of recent years, we can venture a pretty good guess. Institutional liberalism lacks the resources to contend with this threat. Liberalism is being expelled from its former strongholds, and the hegemony of liberal ideas, as we have known it since the 1960s, will end. Anti-Marxist liberals are about to find themselves in much the same situation that has characterized conservatives, nationalists, and Christians for some time now: They are about to find themselves in the opposition.

This means that some brave liberals will soon be waging war on the very institutions they so recently controlled. They will try to build up alternative educational and media platforms in the shadow of the prestigious, wealthy, powerful institutions they have lost. Meanwhile, others will continue to work in the mainstream media, universities, tech companies, philanthropies, and government bureaucracy, learning to keep their liberalism to themselves and to let their colleagues believe that they too are Marxists—just as many conservatives learned long ago how to keep their conservatism to themselves and let their colleagues believe they are liberals.

This is the new reality that is emerging. There is blood in the water and the new Marxists will not rest content with their recent victories. In America, they will press their advantage and try to seize the Democratic Party. They will seek to reduce the Republican Party to a weak imitation of their own new ideology, or to ban it outright as a racist organization. And in other democratic countries, they will attempt to imitate their successes in America. No free nation will be spared this trial. So let us not avert our eyes and tell ourselves that this curse isn’t coming for us. Because it is coming for us.

In this essay, I would like to offer some initial remarks about the new Marxist victories in America—about what has happened and what’s likely to happen next. (See article at red link above for parts I to V)

VI. The Marxist endgame and democracy’s end

The most basic thing one needs to know about a democratic regime, then, is this: You need to have at least two legitimate political parties for democracy to work. By a legitimate political party, I mean one that is recognized by its rivals as having a right to rule if it wins an election. For example, a liberal party may grant legitimacy to a conservative party (even though they don’t like them much), and in return this conservative party may grant legitimacy to a liberal party (even though they don’t like them much). Indeed, this is the way most modern democratic nations have been governed.

But legitimacy is one of those traditional political concepts that Marxist criticism is now on the verge of destroying.

From the Marxist point of view, our inherited concept of legitimacy is nothing more than an instrument the ruling classes use to perpetuate injustice and oppression. The word legitimacy takes on its true meaning only with reference to the oppressed classes or groups that the Marxist sees as the sole legitimate rulers of the nation. In other words, Marxist political theory confers legitimacy on only one political party—the party of the oppressed, whose aim is the revolutionary reconstitution of society. And this means that the Marxist political framework cannot co-exist with democratic government. Indeed, the entire purpose of democratic government, with its plurality of legitimate parties, is to avoid the violent reconstitution of society that Marxist political theory regards as the only reasonable aim of politics.

Simply put, the Marxist framework and democratic political theory are opposed to one another in principle.

A Marxist cannot grant legitimacy to liberal or conservative points of view without giving up the heart of Marxist theory, which is that these points of view are inextricably bound up with systematic injustice and must be overthrown, by violence if necessary. This is why the very idea that a dissenting opinion—one that is not “Progressive” or “Anti-Racist”—could be considered legitimate has disappeared from liberal institutions as Marxists have gained power. At first, liberals capitulated to their Marxist colleagues’ demand that conservative viewpoints be considered illegitimate (because conservatives are “authoritarian” or “fascist”). This was the dynamic that brought about the elimination of conservatives from most of the leading universities and media outlets in America.

But by the summer of 2020, this arrangement had run its course. In the United States, Marxists were now strong enough to demand that liberals fall into line on virtually any issue they considered pressing. In what were recently liberal institutions, a liberal point of view has likewise ceased to be legitimate. This is the meaning of the expulsion of liberal journalists from the New York Times and other news organisations. It is the reason that Woodrow Wilson’s name was removed from buildings at Princeton University, and for similar acts at other universities and schools. These expulsions and renamings are the equivalent of raising a Marxist flag over each university, newspaper, and corporation in turn, as the legitimacy of the old liberalism is revoked.

Until 2016, America sill had two legitimate political parties. But when Donald Trump was elected president, the talk of his being “authoritarian” or “fascist” was used to discredit the traditional liberal point of view, according to which a duly elected president, the candidate chosen by half the public through constitutional procedures, should be accorded legitimacy. Instead a “resistance” was declared, whose purpose was to delegitimize the president, those who worked with him, and those who voted for him.

I know that many liberals believe that this rejection of Trump’s legitimacy was directed only at him, personally. They believe, as a liberal friend wrote to me recently, that when this particular president is removed from office, America will be able to return to normal.

But nothing of the sort is going to happen.

The Marxists who have seized control of the means of producing and disseminating ideas in America cannot, without betraying their cause, confer legitimacy on any conservative government. And they cannot grant legitimacy to any form of liberalism that is not supine before them. This means that whatever President Trump’s electoral fortunes, the “resistance” is not going to end. It is just beginning.

With the Marxist conquest of liberal institutions, we have entered a new phase in American history (and, consequently, in the history of all democratic nations). We have entered the phase in which Marxists, having conquered the universities, the media, and major corporations, will seek to apply this model to the conquest of the political arena as a whole.

How will they do this? As in the universities and the media, they will use their presence within liberal institutions to force liberals to break the bonds of mutual legitimacy that bind them to conservatives—and therefore to two-party democracy. They will not demand the delegitimization of just President Trump, but of all conservatives. We’ve already seen this in the efforts to delegitimize the views of Senators Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, and Tim Scott, as well as the media personality Tucker Carlson and others. Then they will move on to delegitimizing liberals who treat conservative views as legitimate, such as James Bennet, Bari Weiss, and Andrew Sullivan. As was the case in the universities and media, many liberals will accommodate these Marxist tactics in the belief that by delegitimizing conservatives they can appease the Marxists and turn them into strategic allies.

But the Marxists will not be appeased because what they’re after is the conquest of liberalism itself—already happening as they persuade liberals to abandon their traditional two-party conception of political legitimacy, and with it their commitment to a democratic regime. The collapse of the bonds of mutual legitimacy that have tied liberals to conservatives in a democratic system of government will not make the liberals in question Marxists quite yet. But it will make them the supine lackeys of these Marxists, without the power to resist anything that “Progressives” and “Anti-Racists” designate as being important.

And it will get them accustomed to the coming one-party regime, in which liberals will have a splendid role to play—if they are willing to give up their liberalism.

I know that many liberals are confused, and that they still suppose there are various alternatives before them. But it isn’t true. At this point, most of the alternatives that existed a few years ago are gone. Liberals will have to choose between two alternatives: either they will submit to the Marxists, and help them bring democracy in America to an end. Or they will assemble a pro-democracy alliance with conservatives. There aren’t any other choices.

See also: Post at The Reference Frame (Prague) Klaus: a progressive victory in the US is a more serious worry than the Chinese politburo

Four Steps to Take Down a Free Society

 

Resisting the PC “Karens”

In the social media it has become common to refer to someone who scolds or punishes you for your behavior as “Karen being Karen.” It started with a stereotype of arrogant entitled white women who put down others lacking their privileged refinement. Since the return of the BLM movement many are using the label for a racist tone dismissive of white people generally.

Leaving aside the racist connotation, I am focusing on the Karen role of enforcing politically correct behavior. For example, consider the recent Central Park incident in which a woman called Amy Cooper called the cops on a black man called Christian Cooper (no relation) and claimed that he was harassing her when in truth he was reprimanding her for letting her dog off its leash in a part of the park where you’re not meant to do that. Amy behaved badly in this incident. But as Robert A George argued in the New York Daily News: ‘[Christian] is the “Karen” in this encounter, deciding to enforce park rules unilaterally and to punish “intransigence” ruthlessly.’ Amy Cooper’s life has been shattered by this Karen-shaming incident: she lost her job and her dog.

Regardless of racial or gender identity, the “Karenness Quality” is this self-righteous public shaming of others for not behaving according to Karen’s Rules. For example, note the flip-flop of the mayor of Olympia, Washington. She was fine with the Black Lives Matter protests that followed George Floyd’s death in police custody. But that was until vandals damaged her home, according to reports. Changing her mind about the BLM protests when she was damaged personally, Mayor Cheryl Selby of Olympia now refers to the protests as “domestic terrorism,” according to The Olympian. “I’m really trying to process this,” Selby told the newspaper Saturday, after the rioters’ Friday night spree left her front door and porch covered with spray-painted messages. “It’s like domestic terrorism. It’s unfair.”

Karenism has this moral purity abstracted from personal experience with the hardships involved. Karen exemplar Marie Antoinette famously responded to the plight of breadless peasants with her “Let them eat cake.”

Karens are having a field day with The Wu Flu pandemania, such that I am in violation just for referring to the Chinese origin of this contagion. The media weaponizing the virus fear factor triggers the inner Karens to confront, denounce and denigrate others as threats to personal health and well being. You can see it when in a store, another customer scolds you for not wearing your mask properly, or going the wrong direction in the aisle. Or when Governor Karen Cuomo of NY denounces Florida or Georgia for their policies, while his state sets records for Wu Flu deaths per million.

There are various ways of responding to the Karens of this world. Comedian Steve Martin was famous for his reply to PC critics.

When the scolding is related to trivial procedural details, it’s appropriate to respond with: “Whatever.”

Then there’s Jimbob’s approach which involves switching the context to expose the absurdity of Karen’s challenge.