Friday, November 27, 2015

Killing blacks softly with their song.

Let me be clear from the outset: I do not want to see one more black child shot in the face in reprisal for his parents' missteps in gang culture. I do not want to see any more black adults shot, either. Nor do I want to see blacks in large numbers suspended from schools, or incarcerated, or otherwise denied the multifarious blessings of our American society. At the same time, I am sick to death of hearing all of those ills, and others, blamed on white society and the enduring legacy of "America's original sin," slavery. Not only do I think we've reached a point where we must stop such talkReconstruction was a long time agobut I think it's counterproductive, as it gives today's young blacks a ready-made excuse for poor performance...a mantra, an alibi to keep repeating to themselves. This is analogous to my objections to the fundamental theme of Alcoholics Anonymous, as enunciated in SHAM: When you tell people that they're victims of an incurable disease, have you not made them feel like helpless victims and thus undercut the empowerment with which you're supposedly imbuing them? 

Even if there's a kernel of truth to it, why reinforce their inclination to descend into woe-is-me-ism? (Mention it in passing, perhaps, and then move on to what they really need to know to get better.)
This is why I get so impatient with the likes of literati darling Ta-Nehisi Coates or CNN's insufferable, one-tune Sunny Hostin. If nothing is the black man's faultif it is always society or white America who's to blamethen (a) whence the black man's inspiration to pull himself up by his bootstraps, and (b) doesn't that also make the problem white America's to solve? If either or both of those are the case, haven't we totally disenfranchised the black man, each individual black man, from any personal stake in his own outcomes?

(Interestingly, when a black person excels, we give him/her all the credit. We're only stingy when it comes to apportioning blame.)

That's why I'm so annoyed today about this article that I came across on Pro Publica. Again here, it is the gun (and the lack of national action on gun control) that accounts for inner-city crime, not the black hand that holds the gun. Just as it is apparently racist teachers or uncaring administrations who are responsible for all those black kids who are suspended (or who, later, drop out of college), and it is maleficent cops, juries and judges who are responsible for mass incarceration.

You know, folks, every single day in the American court system, white people are found guilty of violent crimes despite horrific personal circumstances that are far more immediate and personally relevant than a three-centuries-old legacy of slavery. I've said this before, but look at Charlie Manson's upbringing, or the bio of so many violent sexual predators, and tell me that the contextual factors in their coming-of-age had nothing to do with their turning out as they did. But we've made a compact with ourselves as a society that people, especially felons, must be held individually liable for their actions. We can't incarcerate society or their parents or their siblings or the nasty SOBs who bullied them in the schoolyard.

If you transgress, you are responsible. And you must face the punishment. We accept this as it relates to white society.

It is long past time to take that same approach in dealing with black America. Yes, as that video of the killing of Laquan McDonald appears to show, we have a policing problem. And yes, as the video of that cop hurling that teenage black girl off her chair suggests, there are issues of fairness in school as well. Few would dispute this any longer. But there are also issues with blacks themselves, and some of those issues are factors in the prejudices that blacks may encounter from teachers, cops and others in positions of authority. There are factors in the way affected black kids are raised, and in the peer pressure they feel to reject conformity with white society, and in the need (among some black youths) to be loud and lewd and rebellious and even belligerent...and which we too often are wont to dismiss as "cultural differences." The girl who got tossed from her chair, after all, refused to get off her cell phone despite repeated requests, and also gave lip to both the teacher and the (overreacting) officer. Whether or not that's a cultural difference, it is also an unacceptable level of defiance, and it speaks poorly of her prospects. That self-defeating nonsense must stop. And black elders must come out and say so (instead of reaffirming resentments and effectively teaching black kids to be contemptuous of white society and its convention, as Coates, for one, does in his book, which is framed as a letter to his son, God help us. And as Hostin does almost nightly, it seems, on CNN). If #BlackLivesReallyMatter, such considerations must be a part of any legitimate "dialog on race" that leading black voices and the liberal elite keep calling for. Or else we will still be trying to have that dialog on the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery and beyond.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The hoaxing ground.

AND NOW THE PLOT SICKENS. Sunday morning: Yes, I will still watch this film, but as it begins to appear more and more that this is Rolling Stone in spades, I will watch with an intense "where do they get their nerve?" fascination. (Among other things, how do you feel no qualms about going so very public with horrifying claims against men who, in all likelihood, did little if anything wrong?) And now that I know what to look for, I suppose I'll also feel some of the same thrill you feel when you spot one of a classic film's well-documented goofs: like those famous scenes in Spartacus where Roman senators are wearing Rolexes or gladiators gladiate in flip-flops. (Or there's Braveheart's notorious white van.) But Spartacus and Braveheart, of course, redeemed themselves. Not so here. Are propagandists like this unaware of how much they hurt not only this cause, but the cause of feminists and other SJWs working on any variety of social ills? 

This will damage CNN's brand as well. CNN is a news network; viewers assume that what goes on-air has been vetted, or at least subjected to routine journalisic scrutiny. This would especially be the case with a documentary, where there's plenty of time for fact-checking and prudent editing. Does CNN not already have enough of a credibility problem with a large segment of the population? What does it now tell viewing America that the network says, in effect, Yeah, we know the film is a tendentious mess, but it makes a point with which we sympathize, so we're airing it anyway? And remember, CNN has been put on notice: So any defamation becomes a case of willful malice. 

Why is this one film worth all that? 

AND THE PLOT THICKENS, SAT. morning: QB Jameis Winston (see main post) now threatens to sue CNN if the network goes ahead with its broadcast. I hope this prompts a wider examination of so-called advocacy journalism. To me, there are serious questions about whether a primary source of news like CNN should be inviting doubts about its objectivity/integrity by embracing "causes" like this.

UPDATE, 9:50 p.m. Here's an even more pointed indictment of the film, urging CNN to cut its losses and pull the plug. I tend to doubt that will happen. But it's hard to grasp why the network would open itself up to another Rolling Stone-like debunking/humiliation.

Here's a stunning indictment of The Hunting Ground, an alleged documentary on the campus "rape crisis" that airs on CNN this Sunday. A must-read. 

One is particularly struck by the note at the end, detailing a crew member's admitted practice of editing Wikipedia entries to conform to the movie's arguments and themes; a literal rewrite of history. He even edited Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston's page, removing exculpatory material surrounding rape allegations against Winston from his days at FSU. Three separate investigations exonerated Winston.

The "true believers" have no shame nowadays. Nothing is beneath them. I'm almost surprised the film's insiders didn't erase the Wikipedia entry on the Rolling Stone/UVA scandal, or revise it such that it supports the disgraced reporter's original story.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Still occasionally in the news...

Not sure I understand how or why I'm footnoted in this piece, but it's interesting reading, as it seems to attach a physiological fingerprint to self-help consumption...though I'm not sure their study sufficiently controlled for variables, taken on its face.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Put your ideas behind your back or they'll shoot!

Yesterday I had an interesting (and shockingly civil) Twitter-bate with someone on the subject of so-called trigger warnings. He argued, for example, that if you're a professor who plans to discuss sexual assaultand/or especially if you plan to unveil materials describing/depicting sameit is simply proper to warn the class in the event that one or more of your students may be struggling with PTSD in the aftermath of a rape.

OK...look...sigh...I suppose you'd have to be a total a-hole to go to the mat on that one, as framed by my Twitter-ponent, even though another part of me wonders whether we want to put students in the awkward position of having to identify themselves by their getting up and leaving the room. Wouldn't that just be another infringement/invasion? But the real trouble is, we act today as if everyone in college suffers from PTSD. Or that we risk inducing PTSD in everyone merely through intense classroom discussion of sensitive topics.

Yanno, folks, by the time I got to college in the late 1960s the Mafia was already in decline, John Gotti notwithstanding. But if I'd reached college during the Mob's 1950s heyday, it would've struck me as perfectly reasonable for a prof to moderate a classroom discussion along the lines of What the hell is wrong with all these Italian men? Could there be something present, or absent, that isn't present or absent as much in other men? If so, is it nature or nurture? Is this Salerno character, in all likelihood, slightly more dangerous than the average guy? In fact, I can still see the merit of such a discussion today with regard to matters like temper and infidelity, as these are bugaboos that have defined Italian men I've known to a far greater degree than they afflict, say, my Jewish contemporaries. So then why is it inappropriate, even traumatizing, to have an intellectual discussion along the lines of Could there be something inherently wrong with a large number of black people? To wit, is it really profiling and/or prejudice that causes the mass incarceration and underachievement? Or is it, again, some predisposition of genetic or acculturated origin?

Why can't you have that discussion, even if you've got black students in the class? It would not be racism to do so, no matter how uncomfortable it made people. It would simply be a case of looking at empirical data and confronting the appropriate Occam's Razor questions. (We seem to have no problem looking at accident data and deducing that teenaged male drivers are dangerous.) In fact, such a discussion would ipso facto be an excellent gateway to the "open dialog on race" for which we're always calling but for which we don't really have the stomach, when it comes right down to it. Think of all the solid evidence that could be introduced on one side or the other from such realms as anthropology, biology, criminology, sociology, and so on ad infinitum. What's more, a trigger warning in that scenario would strike me as patronizing to any black students in attendance. One, it would assume they (a) "think black," and (b) are incapable of fighting their own battles, if that's what they choose to do.

Or suppose I would like my class to tackle the issue, "Is Bruce Jenner transsexual or is s/he just insane?" What about most other trans people? Do I need to worry that I may offend students of uncertain gender identity? Should I need to worry that I will be reported to administrators as a bigot? When and where did we adopt the mantra that debate has only one authorized side (which, in college settings, is uniformly the liberal side)? 

Because, you see, that is the real impetus behind today's trigger warnings and microaggression-mania: to give formal standing to one and only one point of view. To marginalize anyone who dissents from the prevailing agenda/ethos. I just don't buy it.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Taliban, Ivy League chapter. A not-so-safe space?

UPDATE, Monday, Nov. 16: Excellent column on the topic by George Will.

Militant political correctness on campus is getting the long-overdue scrutiny it deserves thanks in no small part to Atlantic Monthly writers Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt (they're a writing team) and Conor Freidersdorf, as well as New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait. Books on the subject are even bursting into print, like Kirsten Powers' excellent The Silencing. That the sniping is coming from a pair of magazines that tilt to the port side, as well as from Powers, long one of the Left's most ubiquitous talking heads, tells you something about the gravity of the problem. When folks like that jump ship, and do it so vocally, the situation must be dire indeed. 

It is. Today's brand of PC, with its ceaseless blather about microaggressions, trigger warnings and safe spaces, is in fact anything but safe. It is terribly dangerous in that it undermines the single most important umbrella mandate of a college education, which is to promote critical thinking/skepticism...i.e, the idea that no cow is too sacred to be examined, if not dissected, from every angle. The very mission statement of college is to shake people out of their comfort zones by forcing them to confront unfamiliar, possibly offensive (and yes, dear children, even hurtful) ideas. It bears saying that that mission, translated into policy, promotes true diversity of thought (not today's faux diversity-mania). It promotes the ability to abide the notion that while others may disagree with your belief system, that disagreement does not make them objectively wrong, and it certainly doesn't make them evil. What we are witnessing on today's college campuses is the (ironic) Talibanization of sociopolitical thought. If you beg to differ, then off with your head! Thankfully, so far this has been true in a metaphorical sense only.

I could drone on and on about this, and about how I myself have been targeted, but the errant ways of today's Safe Space Revolution have been elucidated at length, and better than I could do it here, in the articles linked above, as well as by Ms. Powers in her fine book. Let's just agree that this a cancer of mind and spirit. It simultaneously (if improbably) fosters a brutal hubris and a painful fragility within those in whom it incubates.

Which brings me to the final takeaway for those of us who congregate here. The regrettable phenomena rampant on today's campuses are direct outgrowths of what I wrote about in SHAM, and what we've explored at length on this blog in the decade since my book was published. Today's campus bullies (who do their bullying while wearing the cloak of the oppressed) are the chickens of the self-esteem movement come home to roost. That movement gained its greatest traction during the grade-school years of the millennials now overrunning colleges nationwide, producing a generation of young adults trained to think of themselves as special, wonderful, destined for greatness. (I can be anything i want! I don't ever have to give up my dreams!) A generation of kids who grew up somehow believing that each of them would go on to become president (for isn't that what they were told in all those cheering, chanting assemblies?) And yetas prophesied early on by some of uswhat a hollow form of self-esteem it is that degrades so easily into the abiding sense of victimization we see at academy today.They cannot bear insult, they cannot be challenged on their beliefs, or else they fall almost pathologically to pieces. If I am special...and this is what I can you dare challenge me? OMG, maybe I'm not that special after all...?

In the case of the Ivy Leaguers who are front and center in the crusade against freedom of thought, the prevailing mindset was also catalyzed by privileged upbringings, and further enabled in many cases by helicoptering parents who ensured that disappointment never stained the lives of little Matt or Muffy. 

So it is that deep inside, these young people who come off as demanding, who shout down all dissenters, are as delicate as a fine China tea set...woefully unprepared for a Real World that is not going to bow to their every whim.