Education

A Moment Significant of Either Something Important or Nothing In Particular

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Lucifer', by Franz von Stuck, 1890.

There is this, from Jacob Hamburger for L.A. Review of Books

What exactly are the ideas that have made people like Weinstein, Sam Harris, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, Dave Rubin, Ben Shapiro, and Christina Hoff Sommers into what a recent New York Times profile described as intellectual “renegades”? According to the Times writer Bari Weiss, most emphasize the biological differences between men and women, a feeling that free speech is “under siege,” and a fear that “identity politics” is a threat to the United States’s social fabric.

A listener of Harris’s podcast might add to the list a vociferous defense of the validity of genetic explanations for IQ differences between racial groups, a follower of Peterson’s videos might insist on the nefarious influence of “postmodern neo-Marxism” on college campuses, and a fan of Ben Shapiro might contribute a skepticism toward the reality of “transgenderism.”

The movement sees itself as an alliance that defies established political categories in order to defend these ideas against the creeping influence of thought control. This leads us to another important meaning of the term intellectual dark web, the suggestion that its ideas are not only controversial, but particularly innovative in our political moment. If the dark web arouses the anger of certain commentators in the media or the academy, it is for the same reasons that new technologies in the internet age are “disruptive.”

It would take a short memory, however, not to notice that these sorts of polemics over political correctness are anything but novel: they have been around for at least 30 years, ever since a strikingly similar set of media debates centered around college campuses took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Toward the end of the Reagan years, political correctness became a favorite bugbear of conservative intellectuals, who believed that college professors had latched onto illiberal or totalitarian notions of equality, and were indoctrinating their students with a subversive view of American society. Today’s “dark web” provocateurs rarely mention these predecessors, who not too long ago occupied a similar place in national media debates. Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, 17 July 2018.But the comparison suggests that the “iconoclastic” ideas of these figures are actually a well-established institution in American discourse: an institution whose home is on the political right.

—and what stands out is that we really ought not be surprised. To the one, the general point is nothing new; to the other, what is the significance of this particular discussion getting this press at this time?

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Image note: Top — Detail of Lucifer, by Franz von Stuck, 1890.  Bottom — Detail of cartoon by Jen Sorensen, via The Nib, 17 July 2018.

Hamburger, Jacob. “The ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ Is Nothing New”. Los Angeles Review of Books. 18 July 2018.

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What They Voted For: Why Government Doesn’t Work (Educational Remix)

#wellduh | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Betsy Devos (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It is said, sometimes, that there are no stupid questions, and we all know better, but that really does not seem the problem challenging Steve Benen when his consideration of Education Secretary Betsy Devos would seem to wonder after the obvious:

There’s a reason Betsy DeVos doesn’t sit down for a lot of interviews.

My question, however, is for the 51 Republicans who put elevated her to her current post: any regrets?

Of course not; they’re Republicans. This is the party that tells us government does not work; we ought not be surprised, and instead remember that Secretary DeVos only “embarrasses herself (and the 50 senators who voted to confirm her)” according to contexts by which competence and functionality are considered admirable, desirable, or, at the very least, a necessary component according to purpose. To the other, it seems worth reminding that even into the twenty-first century it was inappropriate to presume so poorly of public servants as we would to account for the incompetence, corruption, and sheer stupidity of the Trump administration.

Sixty-two million nine hundred eighty-four thousand eight hundred twenty-five. This is what they voted for.

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Image note: Betsy Devos (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Benen, Steve. “DeVos embarrasses herself (and the 50 senators who voted to confirm her)”. msnbc. 12 March 2018.

Unmitigated Stupidity (Coon Rapids Mix)

#unmitigatedstupidity | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of 'Lucifer', by Franz von Stuck, 1890.

Heads or tails? To the one, this is #WhatTheyVotedFor.

Jeff Baumann, a notorious anti-Muslim activist in Minnesota’s Senate District 36, also urged in the resolution that “no Islamic leader, religious or otherwise, shall ever be allowed to deliver the invocation at any Republican convention or event.”

The resolution further called for “legislation, policies, and educational programs [to] be implemented… so as to evermore minimize and eliminate the influence of Islam within Minnesota, including Minnesota schools.”

Baumann presented the resolution at a caucus meeting in Coon Rapids, a suburb of Minneapolis. It’s unclear whether the resolution will pass there, but it appears to have failed in other districts, according to Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the local Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

(Abdelaziz)

To the other, they apparently want to vote again, y’know, on something—anything—and the otherwise impossible stupidity of the prospect becomes worrisome because these are, after all, Republicans.   (more…)

Required Reading (Slouching Luxury)

Detail of cartoon by Mr. Fish, 30 November 2014, via Clowncrack.

The headline for Jemar Tisby, at the Washington Post, is pretty straightforward: “Why a racially insensitive photo of Southern Baptist seminary professors matters”.

Officials from the seminary requested that the post be removed, and David Allen, one of the men in the picture and dean of SWBTS’s School of Preaching, tweeted an apology: “I apologize for a recent image I posted which was offensive. Context is immaterial. @swbts stance on race is clear as is mine.”

It’s odd for a preaching professor to suggest “context is immaterial,” because seminary professors usually teach their students that context is everything. The SWBTS “Mission, Vision, & Values” page states that their global “strategy includes the training of persons from every national, ethnic and cultural background for a variety of ministries.” But when it comes to understanding this particular photo, understanding a larger Southern Baptist and evangelical context is key.

(more…)

Whitewashing History (Ben Carson Revisionist Remix)

#AlternativeFacts | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Housing and Urban Development Secretary-designate Ben Carson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 12 at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. (Zach Gibson | AP file)

“If we use Ben Carson’s logic, Frederick Douglass made it big after his plantation internship, Harriet Jacobs went into servitude for the sole purpose of memoir research and Harriet Tubman was the best tour guide of her time. Carson’s actions have prompted many, including myself, to label him as an Uncle Tom. But we might be wrong about that: ‘Uncle Tom’ may be too good of a title for the HUD secretary.”

D. Watkins

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Image note: Ben Carson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 12 at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. (Zach Gibson/AP file)

Watkins, D. “Ben Carson’s infinite fall from grace”. Salon. 7 March 2017.

#DimensionSteve (Theme Song Edition)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a press conference in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 16 February 2017. (Photo: Associated Press)

Notes and quotes from Steve Benen, at MaddowBlog, 20 February 2017:

#ProbablyNot: “If it makes Sweden feel any better, many Americans often have no idea what Trump is saying, either.”

#WatersEdge: “As a factual matter, the senator is a Maverick in Name Only.”

#WhatTheyVotedFor: “There’s no reason to go along with this as if it were somehow normal.”

#GettingWorseNotBetter: “Republicans may be eager to blast Democratic ‘obstruction’ and partisan delays, but the truth of the matter is simple: Democrats can’t block nominees who don’t exist.”

#McCarthysMouth: “That’s the kind of quote that could use some clarification.”

#Backfill: “The era of ‘fuzzy math’ is back with a vengeance.”

#WhyGovernmentDoesntWork: “So, the nation’s Education Secretary, even now, isn’t sure the position she now holds should exist―apparently because she’s still not on board with the idea of having a federal Department of Education, which she now leads.”

#MatthewFifteenElevenα: “The president is himself on board with the ‘Never-Mind-What-Trump-Said’ approach to foreign policy.”

#PutiPoodle: “Why Cohen would tell two very different stories to two different newspapers is unclear.”

#YesWeHave: “Have we really reached the point at which Trump World is so accustomed to pushing bogus and misleading information that even the president’s golfing is fair game?”

(more…)

A Murmur Before the Buzz

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks to the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church during their annual convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 8 July 2016. (Photo: Charles Mostoller/Reuters)

Of course this feels inevitable:

Hillary Clinton is being urged by a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers to call for a recount in three swing states won by Donald Trump, New York has learned. The group, which includes voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, believes they’ve found persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked. The group is so far not speaking on the record about their findings and is focused on lobbying the Clinton team in private.

(Sherman)

Two important caveats from New York magazine:

• It would take overturning the results in both Wisconsin (10 Electoral College votes) and Pennsylvania (20 votes), in addition to winning Michigan’s 16, for Clinton to win the Electoral College.

• The academics so far have only a circumstantial case that would require not just a recount but a forensic audit of voting machines.

There is a reason this feels inevitable. Still, though, neither are these signals that should be raising or dashing hopes, nor sounding alarms from sea to shining sea that the Russians have finally won.

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Image note: Photo by Charles Mostoller/Reuters

Sherman, Gabriel. “Experts Urge Clinton Campaign to Challenge Election Results in 3 Swing States”. New York. 22 November 2016.

Your Quote of the Day: The Donald Smart Show

Detail of photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters, 2016.

“People don’t know how great you are. People don’t know how smart you are. These are smart people. These are smart people. These are really the smart people. And they never like to say it. But I say it. And I’m a smart person. These are the smart. We have the smartest people. We have the smartest people. And they know it. And some say it. But they hate to say it. But we have the smartest people.”

Donald Trump

This is, according to msnbc producer Kyle Griffin, how Donald Trump explained to a Council Bluffs, Iowa audience last month just how smart they are.

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Image note: Detail of photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters.

Griffin, Kyle. “Unedited”. Twitter. 28 September 2016.

The Donald Trump National Convention (Not Quite Jesus Trump)

Detail of cartoon by John Cole, The Times Tribune, 17 July 2016.It seems worth noting that John Cole’s editorial cartoon for the Times Tribune, regarding the GOP platform, is tagged: business, Climate change, energy, environment, National Politics, Climate change, Donald Trump, Gay rights, GOP, GOP convention, tea party, and Womens’ rights.

No, really. Just sayin’.

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Image note: Trump the Carpenter ― Detail of cartoon by John Cole, The Times Tribune, 17 July 2016.