Sunday, January 31, 2021

Killing Children's Minds at Dalton

Normally, when your local public schools are not educating your children but are indoctrinating them in woke ideology-- see previous post-- you will try to send them to private school. If you cannot afford New York City’s obscenely expensive private schools, you will move to the suburbs. One suspects that the latter solution now appeals to more and more people.

For now, we note that private schools like Dalton Schools have completely gone over to the dark side-- they are now teaching critical race theory and woke ideology. 

For those who are not familiar with the New York private school world, Dalton counts as a decidedly progressive place. This means that we do not feel especially sorry for the parents who are now up in arms at the turn toward wokeness. They are inveterate unreconstructed progressives-- it could not have happened to a nicer bunch of people

Of course, now that they see that the school is actively destroying their children’s minds, they are beginning to rebel. The New York Post has the story, along with a letter written by an angry parent. Among the points in the letter, the only solution is for parents to boycott Dalton, to find new and more serious schools for their children.

Obviously, the Dalton administration considers that any criticism of the current anti-racism curriculum counts as racist, as a thought crime.

As noted in the previous post, children indoctrinated in this mindless ideology are not going to be competing in the world.

The parent offers this description of a Dalton education:

Every class this year has had an obsessive focus on race and identity, ‘racist cop’ reenactments in science, ‘de-centering whiteness’ in art class, learning about white supremacy and sexuality in health class. Wildly inappropriate, many of these classes feel more akin to a Zoom corporate sensitivity-training than to Dalton’s intellectually engaging curriculum.

He wants his children to receive a progressive education. He is obviously deluded on this point. Teaching critical race theory is today’s version of progressive education. He does not like what this education is doing to his children, but he should perhaps have thought about that before voting for progressive politicians:

In place of a joyful progressive education, students are exposed to an excessive focus on skin color and sexuality, before they even understand what sex is. Children are bewildered or bored after hours of discussing these topics in the new long-format classes. Dalton used to awaken children’s imagination with fiction, art, Aztec bookmaking, the Renaissance, ITL and Carmino Ravosa musicals. Having children focus on skin color and their sexual identities, rather than immersing them in the beauty and joy of human civilization, the wonder of science and nature, or the meaning and power of words and math and music, seems nuts to us.  

Say what-- Aztec bookmaking. This apparently counted as progressive education in the past. Normally, it would be considered pagan idolatry. But, what do we know?

Plus, this progressive parent has figured out that anti-racism is racist. Duh? He should be less worried about politically correct dogmas and more worried about what his children are not learning-- and about how they will function in the marketplace when the only thing they know is critical race theory. He tells us that many parents are considering leaving-- it is the only thing that will drill some sense into administrative heads:

This new “anti-racist” obsession with race is incredibly exclusionary and hurtful to many of the children and their families, and many are considering leaving. Why would anyone voluntarily send their children to be taught that they are guilty regardless of their decency and kindness? A school where they are constantly reminded of the color of their skin, not the content of their character. What Black parent wants the other children to feel sorry for their kid and look at them differently? We have spoken with dozens of families, of all colors and backgrounds, who are in shock and looking for an alternative school for their children. 

As it happens, he wants his children to learn how to be empathetic. It’s another buzz word that signifies less thought and more feeling. Do you honestly expect that these children to compete for the high tech jobs of tomorrow:

We totally understand the administration’s desire to do something. We simply object to “anti-racism” on philosophical, ethical and pedagogical grounds, and we support other ways to oppose racism and teach children to become thoughtful and empathetic people. In our view, these recent curricular changes achieve precisely the opposite results as intended. 

The End of the American Mind

A parent whose two children attend New York public schools sees clearly what those schools are doing to his children. They are more involved in indoctrinating children in wokeness than in teaching anything. It did not begin with the Black Lives Matter insurrection. It has been going on for years now.

If you hate America, if you believe that white people are solely responsible for the failures of people of color-- Asians excepted, of course-- then you cannot do better than to teach wokeness. If you expect these children to grow up to become computer engineers, scientists of mathematicians, you are seriously deluded. 

The point is simple. The products of America’s appallingly bad educational system are not going to compete in the world markets, in fields like technology and science. If you imagine that we can simply wave a magic wand and bring the high tech jobs home, look at what the schools are doing to our children.

The father in question told his story anonymously to The New York Post. It begins in 2017:

In 2017, our 5-year-old son came home from kindergarten and said he was studying a famous teenage transgender girl in school. I’d never heard of her, but he said her name was Jazz Jennings (formerly a boy who transitioned a few years ago and has so far had three gender reassignment surgeries.)

Beginning in kindergarten children are being trained to become transgender. It’s not just a social contagion, though it is certainly that, but transgenderism is being actively promoted by schoolteachers-- to the most vulnerable children.

And naturally, the children are taught that sex differences do not matter. 

Not long after that, our son came home and told me the teacher said it was wrong to give little girls pink toys and little boys blue toys. That same year, teachers urged my son and his classmates to march around the school chanting, “Pink and blue is for everyone!” in a gay-rights walk.

And then there is critical race theory. Not only does it teach children to hate their country, it teaches white children to hate themselves for suffering from too much privilege. At the least, it does not teach them how to think. It makes them stupid. Again, this insanity predated the BLM riots this past spring and summer.

So, the school wanted to soften up parents, so it told them to read books about critical race theory. Presumably, the indoctrination would then extend beyond the classroom into the home:

In 2018, my son and daughter were in the same elementary school, and their principal started involving parents as if they were part of the problem, too. We were told to read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” and Ibram X. Kendi’s book, “How to Be an Antiracist.” I read both books, and had issues with them both. Alexander argues that the war on drugs is racist. This is crazy talk because drugs were and still are devastating the black community. Kendi says that unless you’re actively pushing for “equity” all the time, you’re racist. So, for example, the city wants to abolish testing for its more competitive schools because there aren’t enough black kids passing the test. But this lowers the bar for everyone. In my opinion, this so-called anti-racism is hurting black people.

For 7th graders, literature is out, critical race theory is in:

This year, my daughter’s 7th-grade reading material is about how blacks are being persecuted, like Kendi’s book “Stamped” and anti-police books, such as “Children of Blood and Bone” and “Ghost Boys.” Some of what she’s reading is fair. Still, I’d love it if she could read a few of my favorite authors from high school, like Nathaniel Hawthorne or F. Scott Fitzgerald. But that would be considered racist and supremacist according to school thinking.

Are these schools preparing children to do the jobs of tomorrow? Of course not. They are teaching children how to be activists:

My daughter’s 7th-grade humanities curriculum focuses on encouraging students to become activists. The way they do that is by teaching kids America has a history of discrimination and racism, and that it is currently racist and discriminatory. Then they show examples of people who have protested against the system.

For example, my daughter learned that it was discriminatory for the Washington Redskins to name their sports team after Native Americans, and that Native Americans protested the name. But it was never pointed out that the team probably named itself after something they admired back in the day. A team doesn’t name itself after something it feels is inferior.

Obviously, this curriculum is making children hyperconscious of race. And it making members of different races resent each other:

They believe they are doing a good thing in promoting an anti-racist curriculum. But, actually, they’re creating resentment between the races by telling black people that white people are inherently bad and hate them. This leads to the very racism they say they’re trying to prevent.

This father is fighting a rear guard action against those who hate America. He wants his children to be proud of their country:

I think kids should be taught to be proud of their country. It’s a place many people still want to come to, after all. They should be taught about the good parts of capitalism as well as free speech. Instead, kids are taught to look down on their country, and they’re afraid to speak up.

It’s strange as a parent to feel you have so little agency. The kids know it, too. They know they can’t speak up or they risk angering their teachers and maybe losing their friends.

I wish I had a plan for how parents could fight back. But I don’t. This madness is infecting all schools. There’s nowhere to run. To be frank, it’s frightening. I’m voicing my concerns here because it’s the only outlet I have.

And now that these practices are enshrined in federal government policy, thanks to the Biden administration, what hope is there for America?

Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Gamestop Mania

If you are not involved in the Gamestop mania, you are probably sitting back and enjoying the action. You're awaiting the moment when Tom Brady comes out on the field and saves the day.

Anyway, big, bad hedge funds, having shorted Gamestop to oblivion are suddenly faced with the obligation to buy back the shares that they sold short. Many of them do not have enough cash on hand to do so, and are getting seriously damaged.

By now most of us understand that shorting a stock means selling something you do not own. Through the magic of your brokerage firm, you borrow the stock from someone else and sell it, pocketing the proceeds. The person who owned the stock does not really know that you borrowed it and sold it. He knows that the stock still appears on his account. 

So, you sell a share of XYZ for $100 and you have the cash on your account. Are you feeling rich? Perhaps so. But, you also have a debt, not a debt for $100 but a debt for one share of XYZ. Well and good. Now, if the stock rises to $1000, you now own $1000, against which your $100 cash balance does not look quite so imposing. 

As for how and why the stock can make such a meteoric rise, the current answer seems to lie with small retail investors, people who are market amateurs, but who have banded together to push up the stock. Those who are smart enough to sell out before the madness of crowds takes over will make a lot of money.

If they are market amateurs they are also setting themselves up for some serious losses. They are playing the market as though it is a casino. And I trust you know that a casino operator has one very fond wish-- that the first time you play roulette or craps or whatever, you win big. He knows, as first time investors do not know, that instant success convinces him that he is brilliant and that his gut instincts are infallible. Over time he will lose far more than he won the first time.

The same applies to investors on Robinhood. Since there is no real basis for the current price of the Gamestop stock, it will inevitably, at some point, descend to something resembling fair value. If you bought near the top, in order to teach the hedge funds a lesson, you are going to take a loss. It’s like musical chairs-- if you are the last one standing, you will be taking a considerable loss.

To be more precise, if you have invested your family fortune and your retirement accounts, you are going to be hurting. Hopefully, you have not done so. Yet, if you have merely invested your government issued stimulus check, you can probably afford the loss. You can write it off as entertainment. So now, thanks to the internet, millions of people, people of modest wealth, invest money that they can easily afford to lose. Thus, the normal market psychological mechanisms do not work as well. 

Effectively, if millions of denizens of an internet chat room, or some such, pool their resources, they can compete against hedge funds that have massive pools of money. Or, at least, who had them until a few days ago.

According to the rules of short selling, if the owner of the share you borrowed now wants to sell his share at $1000-- why wouldn’t he?-- you are obliged to buy a share and give it back to him. 

But, the cash you received from selling the stock short is not even close to what you need to buy it back. In fact, you will normally be obliged to have a cash balance sufficient to buy back what you owe-- that is, to cover your short. For the sake of this argument, we will ignore the way that margin lending works here. The principle does not change if you are allowed to buy back the share by putting up about half and by borrowing the rest.

Still, you need cash on hand in order to cover your short, to buy the share you borrowed and to return it to the owner who wants to sell it. 

Here’s where it all becomes fun? What are you going to get the money you need to buy a share of XYZ at $1,000. Of course, you will find it by selling other shares you own in other companies, companies like Google and Facebook and Exxon and Home Depot. You will need to sell enough shares of other company stock in order to cover your short. The more expensive XYZ becomes, the more you will be forced to sell-- that is, to liquidate positions. 

As I understand it, you do not have a choice in this matter. Your broker, operating according to the rules of the investment game, will automatically sell shares of other companies if your cash balance falls below a certain point-- that point being having a sufficient amount of cash to cover the short.

If you do not want to sell out your Tesla, you might also find a cash infusion, as one hedge fund did last week, of billions of dollars. It might have been that the fund did not have sufficient assets to cover its shorts-- but I do not know that for a fact.

Anyway, the waves of forced selling are not all that amusing, even if you are not participating in the game. After all, when funds are obliged to sell massive numbers of shares of stock in Google or Facebook or Exxon or Home Depot, you, individual investor, who owns the stocks or who owns a fund that owns the stocks, are going to take a loss. At times, we saw this week, your holdings can decline significantly.

When you are asking why the social media giants intervened to stop the run on Gamestop, one reason, indirectly, is that they were defending the value of their own stock.

At that point, your own portfolio will be descending, even if you are not short Gamestop. Then, you will cease smirking about the losses that the hedge fund investors are taking will vanish. While we all understand that hedge fund investors can afford to take the losses-- otherwise they would not be allowed to invest in the funds in the first place-- other holders might not be quite so flush.

If things get too bad the markets can suffer more severe declines, and this will impact, not only your retirement account, but the economy as a whole.

As of now, no one is very worried. Everyone seems to believe that the situation is anomalous, and that besides, if worse comes to worse, the Federal Reserve will come in to prop up the markets, perhaps by buying futures, perhaps by bailing out hedge funds by providing liquidity. We might not believe in God, but we believe in the Fed. And therefore, like that great fictional character Alfred E. Newman, we are sitting back saying: What me worry?

If that is not sufficient cause for confidence, we also have the perfectly stupid statement by White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki-- to the effect that we need not worry, because the Treasury Secretary is a woman.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Who Is Maher Bitar?

Who is Maher Bitar? 

He is a Palestinian activist, an anti-Semite and Israel hater, with a long history of condemning Israel and working for its destruction. Naturally, this qualifies him to be a key intelligence official in the Biden administration.

The American liberal Jews who voted for Biden should know what they voted for. And yet, Bitar also worked for the Obama administration in high level positions. He even worked for Rep. Adam Schiff.

Daniel Greenfield tells the sad story, beginning with a group that Bitar led at Georgetown (via Maggie's Farm):

The group was the Palestine Solidarity Movement, a BDS anti-Israel hate group whose conferences had a history of antisemitism, supporting Hamas and the murder of Jews.

Anyone who can read will understand who Bitar is:

Maher Bitar, one of the executive board members of Students for Justice in Palestine, was one of the principal organizers of the 2006 conference which was being hosted by Georgetown University's SJP hate group. A photo appears to show him dancing in a keffiyah in front of a banner reading, “Divest from Israel Apartheid”.

Despite protests from Jewish groups, the Georgetown BDS conference went ahead.

Greenfield also wrote this:

Israel's "political existence as a state is the cause for Palestinian dispossession and statelessness," Bitar wrote in one paper. “Israel’s rejection of their right to return remains the main obstacle to finding a durable solution.”

The so-called ‘right to return’ would mean the destruction of Israel.

Given his resume you can understand why the Biden administration gave Bitar such an important position:

Now, Biden has picked Maher Bitar as the Senior Director for Intelligence on the NSC.

In 2006, the American Jewish Committee was pleading with Georgetown to distance itself from the anti-Israel hate of PSM and SJP. Now the anti-Israel hate occupies the top of the foreign policy establishment and is set to define the foreign policy of the Biden administration.

In his new position, the former anti-Israel activist will coordinate intelligence between the White House and the intelligence community, receiving material from intelligence agencies, informing the intelligence community of White House policy, and deciding who gets access to secret information. The office also contains some of the most classified information around.

The job of Senior Director for Intelligence at the National Security Council is supposed to go to an intelligence professional. How did an anti-Israel activist go from helping host a conference for an organization whose speakers have supported Islamic terrorism to a top intelligence job?

How, indeed, did such an individual gain access to America’s most important intelligence?

It was not the firs time. Bitar also worked for the Obama administration, on the National Security Council and the United Nations:

And yet before long, Bitar could be found working for the Office of the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. From there he went on to serve as the NSC’s Director for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs and as Samantha Power’s Deputy at the UN. In under a decade, Bitar had gone from anti-Israel activism through the private network of BDS organizations to key positions shaping American intelligence and foreign policy at the National Security Council and the UN.

And then there is his association with Adam Schiff:

When President Trump was elected, Bitar became the general counsel to House Intelligence Committee Democrats, serving as the top legal adviser to Rep. Adam Schiff and playing a key role in the first Democrat attempt to impeach President Trump. Now he’s back at the NSC.

Bitar’s rise through the ranks speaks to the abandonment of Israel by the Democrats and the ineptitude of pro-Israel advocates at fighting the personnel battles that define the government.

The implications are stark:

Obama had put the author of "Ethnic Cleansing and the Falling Apart of Palestinian Society" in charge of the NSC desk on Israel. Biden put him in charge of NSC intelligence.

Israel will accordingly return to its old Obama understanding that it can no longer share the truly sensitive intelligence with its American counterparts because the NSC is once again tainted.

But the tainting of the NSC has larger implications that go far beyond Israel.

The Obama administration initially began spying on members of Congress who were speaking to Prime Minister Netanyahu after monitoring any effort to take out Iran’s nuclear program.

Pro-Israel legislators should once again expect to be spied on by the Biden administration.

The NSC was a key gateway for Obama’s surveillance of opposition politicians. Putting the right people in place at the NSC will be crucial to protecting the next wave of illegal surveillance.

And any effort by Israel to take out Iran’s nuclear program with its new Arab allies will be closely monitored and sabotaged by the Obama veterans who are back in charge of the NSC.

Another way to undermine Israel and to enhance the power of Iran. This seems to go hand in hand with the Biden administration decision to review Trump administration sales of military equipment to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The sale has not yet been canceled, but clearly the Biden administration will work to undermine the Abraham Accords and to empower Iran.

The radicalism of the Democrats and their abandonment of the Jewish State however are all too real. That’s how Maher Bitar went from anti-Israel activism, from calling for the destruction of Israel, to the Israel desk at the NSC, and then the top policy intelligence position at the NSC.

Of course, no one is paying attention. The leftist media is focused on an idiot Florida Congresswoman, by name of Marjorie Greene, who made a mind-numbingly stupid statement about how Jews were responsible for the California wildfires.

Obviously, she ought to be censured and expelled from the Republican caucus. About that there is no doubt. Her true crime, however, was running cover for Maher Bitar, giving the press and the Democratic Party a way to cover up its anti-Semitism.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

How to Californicate America

When Donald Trump declared that he would make America great again, the naysayers sprung into action. By their dim lights America never was great; it was always a vast criminal conspiracy conducted by white people against people of color. Therefore, they granted themselves the license to ensure that America would never be great again. They would not allow it to be great again during a Trump administration.

Now, Joe Biden does not want to make America great again. His base would rise up in righteous anger if he ever suggested such a thing. No, as Joel Kotkin tells us, Biden wants to make America into California. He wants to take the failed policies that have destroyed California and apply them to America as a whole. How better to prepare for the incoming Kamala Harris administration.

Don’t laugh. The notion that Joe Biden is going to survive four years of the presidency is wildly unrealistic. 

Anyway, Kotkin is an especially reliable reporter. Not only is he a serious scholar, but he is, if memory serves, a Democrat. Therefore we cannot tax him with bias. He is reporting the facts on the ground, in California.

He opens by explaining that California excels-- in the production of mass poverty and in increasing the gulf between middle and upper-middle income earners. As for minorities, they do worse in California than anywhere in the country. Then again, the state’s political leadership is against poverty and inequality, and it’s the intentions that count-- don’t you think.

Kotkin writes:

[California] suffers the nation’s highest poverty rate and presents the widest gap between middle- and upper-middle income earners of any state. Minorities—notably African-Americans and Latinos—do worse in California’s metros than elsewhere in the country, according to a recent study that we conducted at the Urban Reform Institute. In Atlanta, African-American median incomes, adjusted for costs, are almost double those in San Francisco and Los Angeles; Latinos earn $20,000 more in midwestern and southern cities than in the enlightened metros along the California coast.

The California economy is no longer innovative. It is merely living off of what Kotkin calls “information cartels” whose leaders function like feudal lords-- we, the rest, being their serfs. 

Rather than the dazzlingly innovative and diverse economy of its heroic past, the California economy is now dominated by giant information cartels that seem happy, like feudal lords, to divide the vast digital domain among themselves. This top-down model was embraced recently by Governor Gavin Newsom, who boasts that a new round of initial public offerings demonstrate that the state’s growing billionaire class is “doing pretty damn well.”

Of course, none of this wealth has really trickled down. Members of the middle and working classes have become more impoverished. The rich are getting richer and everyone else is getting poorer:

Incomes for California’s middle and working classes have been heading downward for a decade, and the poor, despite an elaborate welfare state celebrated by Tyson and Mendonca, have seen their incomes tumble, even before the pandemic. Only the top 5 percent of taxpayers have done well, while the middle quintiles, and especially the bottom quarter, have suffered negative income growth. These results, the state budget admits, are worse than in the rest of the country.

This means that the very rich pay most of the taxes-- it reminds us of New York City. If enough of these people leave the state, the loss in tax revenue will be calamitous:

… according to Franchise Tax Board data, 46 percent of all personal income taxes are paid by individuals in the top 1 percent, with the top 5 percent paying two-thirds of all personal income taxes. Capital-gains collections have grown five-fold since 2010, while income taxes, which made up barely one-third of the state budget in 1980, now constitute two-thirds.

Like medieval states, California is divided between the rich and the rest. The middle class has largely disappeared. If it has not entirely disappeared, it is well on the way. To his credit, Kotkin blames business-crushing regulatory policies, the kind that the new Biden administration is now implementing:

Meantime, the old middle class continues to fade, and a new one is, for now, largely stillborn. California’s regulatory policies, shaped largely by climate concerns, have pushed housing prices so high that the state, according to a recent AEI survey, is home to six of the nation’s worst markets for first-time homebuyers. The state accounts for four of the nation’s six largest metros with the lowest homeownership rates and, according to a recent study by economist John Husing, unionized construction workers can’t afford any median-priced homes in any coastal California county. There is less construction going on in California—and even if you build it, you can’t afford it.

The only companies that can afford to comply are the big tech firms. At the least, regulation has eliminated the competition. More importantly, the state is now among the nation’s leaders-- in unemployment:

By contrast, many well-capitalized, larger tech and service businesses that can afford to comply with the mandated restrictions have thrived, but overall, the state in 2020 suffered among the nation’s highest unemployment rates, outdone only by tourism-dominated Hawaii, Nevada, and New Jersey. Particularly hard-hit has been Southern California, which lacks the vast tech economy of the Bay Area and has been buffeted by the shuttering of tourist facilities—over 25,000 jobs have been lost in Anaheim, for instance, home to Disneyland.

Obviously, small business has suffered-- as it has in New York State:

One quarter of California’s small businesses, according to Opportunity Insights, an economic indicators tracker based at Harvard University, have closed since January 2020. Given the recent surge in Covid cases and intensifying lockdowns, many more are likely to disappear. The pandemic has been far kinder to the wealthy, who, according to the leftist blog The Bellows, have seen their revenues and profits soar, boosting their wealth by an estimated $1 trillion since March. Alphabet, Apple, Facebook, along with Puget Sound-based Amazon and Microsoft, now make up 20 percent of the stock market’s total worth.

Major companies like Tesla and Charles Schwab are relocating out of the state. Other large companies are considering it. After all, if your employees cannot enjoy a decent standard of living, you will be thinking of moving where they can:

This may explain their relative indifference as companies have moved out, a blasé attitude that may persist even as other iconic firms—Disney, Visa, Chevron, Uber, and Levi Strauss—consider major relocations.

The state’s Democratic leaders-- there are basically no Republicans left in the state-- have the right opinions. They are all for the green new deal and social justice. That their policies destroy the lives of the citizenry, they do not care. The state’s Democrats do not have any political competition. Besides, the people who are suffering for having bought the leftist snake oil voted for politicians who promised them everything and blamed all failures on Trump:

Simply put, California’s performance economically, particularly for its middle and working classes, hardly constitutes a model of social justice or green accomplishment. In actual reductions of greenhouse gases, California is not the environmental icon that it pretends to be. If the largely preventable wildfires are included, the state has increased its emissions; the smoldering fires, as one environmental analyst puts it, “dwarf the state’s fossil fuel emissions.”

And now, given that the states are, as the old saying goes, the laboratories for democracy, the Biden administration is bringing them to the nation. Kotkin expresses his dismay:

The apparent decision of the Biden administration to model its policies on California, particularly in terms of regulation, augurs, if anything, far worse for the rest of the country. The assault on fossil fuels—starting with the announced end of the Keystone XL Pipeline—will destroy a large number of generally well-paying union construction jobs. The banning of fracking, already endorsed by Vice President Harris, would devastate economies in less climactically blessed states like Texas, Pennsylvania, or Ohio. Similarly, California-style regulation already makes it difficult for industrial firms to reshore to the Golden State; imposing similar strictures would slow and even end the gradual shift of industry to the Midwest and other parts of the Heartland.

If California has not yet fallen into the Pacific Ocean, the reason lies with the tech companies. If they were to leave, or if they were to lose their monopoly status, the state would find itself in deep trouble. As for the Biden administration effort to Californicate America....

In the end, the California model works only for the few—but if enough of these super-wealthy few stay put, then the Golden State might yet pretend that it can survive the effects of its policies. It’s doubtful that the rest of the country could enjoy that luxury.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Big Lies from Big Liars

Intellectuals believe in their minds. They believe in big ideas, the kinds that rarely enter their small minds. They identify as thought leaders, people who want to control the American mind.

Now, those who belong to the media are up in arms. They have discovered that the nation's problems derive from the fact that certain people do not think as they think. So, they want to censor anyone who does not believe what they believe. Why they conclude that they possess access to the truth... they will never be able to explain.

They believe in mind over matter and they insist that bad ideas cause bad behaviors. Thus, if only we can clean out the bad ideas that have infested the minds of people who do not think like them, then all will be well.

Blaming actions on ideas is a neat dodge. It comes from our very own therapy culture, the one that derives from a certain mental health practice. In that practice, therapists work hard to change minds, by granting them new illuminating insight and awareness, by teaching them how to narrate their lives. Then their patients will find meaning by folding their small narratives into larger narratives.

From the time of Freud and Jung these narratives were mostly pagan myths and legends. Now they are most likely Hegelian and Marxist narratives of oppression. (To be fair, Freud gave a lot of space to repression narratives.) We do not merely need to overthrow our capitalist patriarchal masters, but we need to change their minds, to institute what Communism called thought reform, i.e. brainwashing.

Dissenting opinions have now become an unmitigated evil, something that must be stamped out, lest we have more riots and more insurrections. You see, bad ideas produce bad behavior. Hate speech produces hateful actions-- unless it is directed at Republicans, in which case it is merely exposing a truth about those bad Republicans.

Among the institutions devoting themselves to this task are the school systems, the academy, the therapy profession, the Democratic Party, the world of television dramedy and sit coms. By all indications, these have been given over to the task of propagandizing the values of wokeness. How many television shows are multicultural, to a fault? How many promote feminist values? How many of the wrongfully accused are people of color? How many villains are white males, capitalist predators?

Now, the armies of wokeness, having conquered most of the marketplace of ideas, are expanding to takeover the rest of the American mind. Led by social media, seconded by the print press, these armies will now set out to censor conservative voices. Recall that the New York Times staff had a temper tantrum over a Sen. Tom Cotton op-ed. The paper apologized for being insensitive and it fired the editorial opinion editor, one James Bennet. Now, the armies of wokeness are stepping up the attack on television news and opinion, in particular, on Fox News.

One remarks that this is not coming from the liberal left. It is coming from the radical millennials who are especially woke. Liberal voices, from Alan Dershowitz to Jonathan Turley to Matt Taibbi to Glenn Greenwald have been out front denouncing this illiberal effort to monopolize the marketplace of ideas.

As you will recall, when the nation’s major cities were engulfed in violent protest this past summer, the media tended to play it down, to see it all as protests. Everyone recalls the pictures of a CNN reporter, standing in front of burning buildings, declaring that the protests were mostly peaceful.

The point is, the mini minds of the American media-- and they are profoundly limited-- believe that reality is what they say it is. They believe that they can change the world by changing the way we talk about and think about the world. Then they inveigh against people who ignore science and reject facts.

John Tierney addressed the point in a recent City Journal essay. (via Maggie’s Farm) We will note that the subterfuge does serve a purpose. The goal is to absolve rioters of all responsibility for what they perpetrated last summer, and to shift the blame to white police officers. If blacks are rioting, the fault lies with white people. Right?

It’s an interesting example of moral dereliction, one that deviates sharply from the approach people took some five decades ago. Then people believed that riots occurred because there was too little ineffective policing. Besides, in those old days, people believed that rioters needed to held personally accountable for their actions. Now people believe that riots occur because there is too much policing and too much racist thinking:

After the 1968 summer of riots, journalists, politicians, and sociologists spent many words and dollars trying to find and cure the “root cause” of the racial unrest. They failed, but eventually a solution did emerge. The root cause of riots turned out to be rioters. Peace returned to the streets once police adopted new crowd-control tactics and prosecutors cracked down on lawbreakers. Mob violence came to be recognized not as an indictment of American society but as a failure of policing.

That lesson was forgotten last year, when police were lambasted for trying to control violence at Black Lives Matter and Antifa protests. Journalists disdained tear gas and arrests in favor of addressing the “systemic racism” supposedly responsible for the disorder. After the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, some raised questions about police failure to stop the mayhem, but once again, progressive journalists are focusing elsewhere. They’ve identified a new root cause of mob violence: free speech.

Also writing for City Journal, Heather Mac Donald explained the price of the movement to blame the police, that is, to discredit the police and to defund the police.

The year 2020 likely saw the largest percentage increase in homicides in American history. Murder was up nearly 37% in a sample of 57 large and medium-size cities. Based on preliminary estimates, at least 2,000 more Americans, most of them black, were killed in 2020 than in 2019….

The local murder increases in 2020 were startling: 95% in Milwaukee, 78% in Louisville, Ky., 74% in Seattle, 72% in Minneapolis, 62% in New Orleans, and 58% in Atlanta, according to data compiled by crime analyst Jeff Asher. Dozens of children, overwhelmingly black, were killed in drive-by shootings. They were slain in their beds, living rooms and strollers. They were struck down at barbecues, in their yards, in malls, in their parents’ cars, and at birthday parties. Fifty-five children were killed in Chicago in 2020, 17 in St. Louis, and 11 in Philadelphia. In South Los Angeles alone, 40 children were shot, some non-lethally, through September.

Some civic leaders blamed it all on systemic racism, so to speak:

Why this mayhem? The St. Louis Post-Dispatch expresses the conventional wisdom: because of the “economic, civic and interpersonal stress” from the coronavirus pandemic. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot blamed pandemic-related “frustration, anger . . . trauma and mental health challenges.”

To translate, this means the rioting is a valid form of political expression, and that it is even a valid therapy for the oppressed. 

Yet, when white people protest, at times violently, at the United States Capitol, that cannot be a valid therapy for the oppressed. Because white people are oppressors.

 Thus, Tierney points out that journalists apply an obvious double standard to the protests. This means that the law and the media and the commentariat treats two groups of people differently. They might as well be living in two different countries. For the record I do not believe that said journalists are progressive, in any serious sense of the word.

In Tierney’s words:

Progressive journalists have been in an ideological bubble so long that they’ve come to believe their own hype about the right-wing menace—and they’re oblivious to their blatant double standards.

They pretended that riots across the United States last year were “mostly peaceful protests,” while the one at the Capitol was a historic “insurrection” and “attempted coup” that put “democracy in peril.” Its symbolism made the Capitol riot a singularly horrifying spectacle on television, but the actual toll in life and property was much smaller than that of last year’s mob violence, which claimed at least 15 lives and caused more than $2 billion in damage.

Yes, the mob at the Capitol had been fed lies and conspiracy theories about election fraud, and some of the organizers had used social media—including not just Parler but also Facebook and Twitter—to enrage the protesters. It’s no surprise that Joe Biden and other Democrats are denouncing this “Big Lie” and promising to fight “domestic terrorism” by imposing new restrictions on social-media platforms. Politicians are always eager for more power.

The interesting point about the war on what Democrats call “domestic terrorism” is that domestic terrorism is the only terrorism Democrats are willing to fight. They are certainly not willing to fight Islamist terrorism-- their great idol, Barack Obama never even spoke the words.

Those who fight an external enemy, like radical Islam, are doing more to unite the country. Those who are fighting against domestic terrorism are necessarily dividing the country.

It’s all about propaganda and promoting lies. It is interesting to see political leaders lying through their teeth while accusing the other side of lying. Of course, this happened during the George W. Bush administration. Given the leftist control of the media, Republicans have yet to come up with an effective counterattack.

That freedom allowed journalists to spend two years promoting a conspiracy theory about Russia collusion, a falsehood that did far more far to cripple the federal government than the Capitol riot. They encouraged last year’s riots by convincing the public, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, that black men were being disproportionately killed by white police officers.

The promoters of those “Big Lies” assume that they won’t be censored as long as Democrats rule Washington and Silicon Valley, but the precedents being set will give Republicans weapons for payback when they return to power. The eventual result will be bipartisan censorship. Far better to let police and courts deal with rioters—and leave Americans free to say what they want.