Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Thomas Frank against Cancel Culture

Clearly-- and it is beyond any doubt-- the cancel culture will not die of its own inanition. It will not die out because the tech oligarchs who are leading the charge suddenly change their minds. It will only die out because thought leaders on the left, good liberals who still understand what liberalism was about, stand up to it. 

After all, McCarthyism was not defeated by the ACLU. It was brought down by President Eisenhower, from behind the curtain. See David Nichols’ book, Ike and McCarthy.

So, we are happy to see that Thomas Frank, bona fide liberal, author of a book about What’s the Matter with Kansas?, has taken  the cancel culture to task in the pages of the Guardian-- not a right wing publication. Needless to say Frank has elicited some cringeworthy reactions from his counterparts on the left, but still, he was manifesting some bravery, so we are happy to report it.

He begins by calling out the aberrant beliefs that currently have taken over the mind of the American left. These tenets of the leftist pseudo-religion are most often uncontested. Now, members of Congress encourage tech oligarchs to shut down conservative speech. It is a monstrous state of affairs.

So, Frank holds the mirror up to the mind of the left:

Today we know that social media is what gives you things like Donald Trump’s lying tweets, the QAnon conspiracy theory and the Capitol riot of 6 January. Social media, we now know, is a volcano of misinformation, a non-stop wallow in hatred and lies, generated for fun and profit, and these days liberal politicians are openly pleading with social media’s corporate masters to pleez clamp a ceiling on it, to stop people from sharing their false and dangerous stories.

Importantly, so importantly that Frank emphasizes it, Democratic politicians are doing everything in their power to shut down any opinions that counter the prevailing liberal dogmas. Obviously, an idiot bartendress from Queens is incapable of debating issues or ideas, so she goads tech tycoons into suppressing speech that risks intruding on the echo chamber of her so-called mind.

Frank continues:

These days Democratic politicians lean on anyone with power over platforms to shut down the propaganda of the right. Former Democratic officials pen op-eds calling on us to get over free speech. Journalists fantasize about how easily and painlessly Silicon Valley might monitor and root out objectionable speech. In a recent HBO documentary on the subject, journalist after journalist can be seen rationalizing that, because social media platforms are private companies, the first amendment doesn’t apply to them … and, I suppose, neither should the American tradition of free-ranging, anything-goes political speech.

Liberalism has become radicalized, and it has also become lobotomized.

In liberal circles these days there is a palpable horror of the uncurated world, of thought spaces flourishing outside the consensus, of unauthorized voices blabbing freely in some arena where there is no moderator to whom someone might be turned in. The remedy for bad speech, we now believe, is not more speech, as per Justice Brandeis’s famous formula, but an “extremism expert” shushing the world.

Now that we are tearing down statues and trying to erase American history, we are left with narratives concocted by illiterate Hollywood celebrities. They require less rational thought, and thus proliferate easily in empty heads:

What an enormous task that shushing will be! American political culture is and always has been a matter of myth and idealism and selective memory. Selling, not studying, is our peculiar national talent. Hollywood, not historians, is who writes our sacred national epics. 

Whatever you think about conservative speech, the correct American response is debate and discussion, even debunking. It is the correct response to radical leftist stupidities too.

Debunking” was how the literary left used to respond to America’s Niagara of nonsense. Criticism, analysis, mockery and protest: these were our weapons. We were rational-minded skeptics, and we had a grand old time deflating creationists, faith healers, puffed-up militarists and corporate liars of every description.

When it comes time to explain the intellectual deficiency of the modern left, Frank suggests that Republicans have been winning elections because the Democratic Party abandoned the working class in order to embrace the interests of a billionaire elite:

What explains the clampdown mania among liberals? The most obvious answer is because they need an excuse. Consider the history: the right has enjoyed tremendous success over the last few decades, and it is true that conservatives’ capacity for hallucinatory fake-populist appeals has helped them to succeed. But that success has also happened because the Democrats, determined to make themselves the party of the affluent and the highly educated, have allowed the right to get away with it.

The Russian collusion nonsense, as many liberals understand, was an effort to shift the blame, to refuse to look in the mirror. Frank might have noticed that the leader of the effort was an incompetent fraud, by name of Hillary Clinton, the nation’s No. 1 enabler of sexual harassment. If you cannot find a better candidate than Hillary Clinton you end up trying to rationalize your defeat by wallowing in the muck and mire of conspiracy theories:

In 2016, for example, liberals chose to blame Russia for their loss rather than look in the mirror. On other occasions they assured one another that they had no problems with white blue-collar workers – until it became undeniable that they did, whereupon liberals chose to blame such people for rejecting them.

Frank remarks that liberals have become a ruling class, a bunch of philosopher kings who believe that they know better and that they should, by divine right, be in charge:

Or perhaps this new taste for censorship is an indication of Democratic healthiness. This is a party that has courted professional-managerial elites for decades, and now they have succeeded in winning them over, along with most of the wealthy areas where such people live. Liberals scold and supervise like an offended ruling class because to a certain extent that’s who they are. More and more, they represent the well-credentialed people who monitor us in the workplace, and more and more do they act like it.

People who censor and cancel, he continues, are admitting defeat. They are saying that they cannot win a debate on the merit, so their only hope is to shut down the opposition:

What all this censorship talk really is, though, is a declaration of defeat – defeat before the Biden administration has really begun. To give up on free speech is to despair of reason itself. (Misinformation, we read in the New York Times, is impervious to critical thinking.) The people simply cannot be persuaded; something more forceful is in order; they must be guided by we, the enlightened; and the first step in such a program is to shut off America’s many burbling fountains of bad takes.

As ought to be perfectly obvious by now, liberals are no longer liberals. They no longer practice liberty. They no longer defend free expression. They label any discommodious idea as heresy and want to shut it down.

Let me confess: every time I read one of these stories calling on us to get over free speech or calling on Mark Zuckerberg to press that big red “mute” button on our political opponents, I feel a wave of incredulity sweep over me. Liberals believe in liberty, I tell myself. This can’t really be happening here in the USA.

For Frank the worst part is not only that it betrays principles that liberals have often embraced but that it will also lead to more Republican victories in upcoming elections.

But, folks, it is happening. And the folly of it all is beyond belief. To say that this will give the right an issue to campaign on is almost too obvious. To point out that it will play straight into the right’s class-based grievance-fantasies requires only a little more sophistication. To say that it is a betrayal of everything we were taught liberalism stood for – a betrayal that we will spend years living down – may be too complex a thought for our punditburo to consider, but it is nevertheless true.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Therapy via Text Message

This week we have a choice between major magazine articles about therapy. Naturally, we feel compelled to say something about them, and we choose to comment on Molly Fischer’s New York Magazine article about therapy via texting. We find the Katy Waldman article in The New Yorker to be less interesting and less salient.

Can you do therapy via text messaging? Fischer reports on the data, which I will spare you, and concludes that you cannot. Apparently, this gives the lie to the empty protestations of French philosophers, especially Jacques Derrida, that writing should always prevail over speech and that you cannot reduce it to speech.

One has noted that there are currently some new articles about Derrida, corresponding to the appearance of some massive biographies. As it happened, by my reading, none of them addressed the most salient question-- how did such a bright man get suckered into being a carrier for Nazi thought and practice. Derrida was like Typhoid Mary-- he happily transmitted the essence of the Nazi thinking of one Martin Heidegger, while imagining that he was a leftist intellectual.

Anyway, Derrida considered post-Socratic thought to be a massive conspiracy to repress writing in favor of speech. He believed that speech was a mere and unnecessary appendage to writing. For the record, I met with Derrida once, and the 0nly lasting impression I gleaned was that he did not know how to engage a conversation.

Anyway, if therapy is based on a conversation-- which it certainly is-- then texting should not work as well as in-person meetings or even televideo or telephone sessions. I am going to defer to Fischer’s expertise here, because I do not and have never texted. You see, I am the last living human who does not own or use a smart phone.  

Anyway, the important question, the center of Fischer’s essay, involves whether or not any of it works. If you cannot connect with your therapist can the treatment be any good. Or else, considering that most text based therapy is very low priced, is the patient simply getting what he is paying for. 

As it happens, it does not seem to matter. It’s a new business opportunity, a new way to sell the public on snake oil, so it has created its own market, with stock.

Fischer opens thusly:

Businesses in the “digital behavioral health” space raised $1.8 billion in venture-capital funding last year, compared to $609 million in 2019. In January, Talkspace announced plans to go public this year in a $1.4 billion SPAC deal. A presentation for investors managed to be simultaneously grim and upbeat in outlining the “enormous” market for its services: More than 70 million Americans suffer from mental illness, according to Talkspace, and the country has seen a 30 percent increase in the annual suicide rate since 2001. Talkspace says 60 percent of its users are in therapy for the first time.

In the meantime Fischer tells of her own experience with therapy, which mostly involved sharing her distress with her mother. It was, dare we say, better than nothing. It mitigates the sense of loneliness. And besides, it seemed to work for her:

When I was very young, the main solution I knew for what I would now call anxiety was to reserve all distressing thoughts I experienced in the course of the day and disgorge them to my mother before bed. I dreaded doing this, but it seemed to work. So probably I was favorably inclined to the idea of someone to talk to. The primary job of the therapists I’ve seen since then has been to notice what I didn’t. They told me if the things I was saying were cause for alarm or resembled other things I had said before or were otherwise revealing. The most effective tool I had acquired was Lexapro, which, after more than a decade, I chose to stop taking at the beginning of March 2020. A few weeks later — cruising on the adrenaline of a crisis in progress, wondering whether my husband was about to lose his livelihood — I decided I no longer needed therapy, either.

One remarks that she did not seem to engage or connect with her therapists. She did not interact with them. They seemed mostly to tell her what she would have been saying if she had been as savvy as they were. It is, dare we say, grossly disrespectful.

Better yet, you probably noticed that she considered medication the most effective tool for managing her anxiety. Not a ringing endorsement of therapy, though surely the advent of new classes of medications has been a godsend for many patients.

Within the therapy world a split occurred, between the old Freudian and insight laden forms of treatment, which were based on storytelling and the new cognitive behavioral treatments that were less about meaning and more about results.

By the end of the century, rival schools had emerged, including, most notably, cognitive behavioral therapy. Where psychoanalysis sought to plumb the depths of the past, CBT focused on present symptoms and quantified results. The goal was not to understand why you felt and thought what you did but to stop those thoughts and feelings from disrupting your life. Instead of a narrative, CBT produced data, with patients scored on symptom inventories for conditions like depression and anxiety.

And yet, when you move into the world of apps you find a panoply of New Age nostrums, most of which are not exactly designed to do anything more than separate you from your money:

Much of what appears if you search “therapy” in the App Store does not provide the services of a human therapist. Some of it does not address mental health at all, in the strict sense: It is the digital equivalent of a scented candle, wafting off into coloring apps and relaxation games. Many services occupy an area somewhere in between professional care and smartphone self-soothing. Reflectly, for example, bills itself as “the World’s First Intelligent Journal” and promises to use the principles of positive psychology, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy to help users track their moods and “invest in” self-care. “Just like a therapist!! But free!!” reads one review. (Reflectly costs $9.99 a month.) Sayana, an AI chatbot, is personified as a pastel illustration with a dark bob and cutoff jeans; she also tracks the user’s mood and offers tips (“Observe your thoughts as they flow, just like the river”) to guide users on a journey through “the world of you.” “This is like your own little therapist and I love it!” reads one five-star review. Youper (mood tracking, chatbot, lessons) sells “Self-Guided Therapy”; Bloom (mood tracking, chatbot, lessons) is “the world’s first digital therapist.”

Can an app or a text message provide what patients really need?

Different people want different things from therapy. They want to break bad habits, work through trauma, vent about their boss, their boyfriend, their mom. They want to feel better (always easier said than done). They want someone to talk to, and they want some tools.

But, what about text messaging:

Text messaging is perhaps the boldest innovation the therapy apps offer — from the standpoint of therapy, if not technology. It is the mechanism by which the apps attempt to widen a single therapist’s reach. And it appeals to many customers, too. The privacy-starved can text without anyone overhearing; the socially anxious can communicate without facing a stranger; people who are new to therapy can get their feet wet in a low-stakes way. 

Of course, if you are texting you do not have a synchronous exchange. Fischer is correct to identify the asynchronicity of the exchange-- which makes it impossible to have a real connection. One feels compelled to add that in traditional Freudian psychoanalysis a conversational exchange is precluded. The set up is designed to prevent conversation:

Asynchronous texting is also a fundamental shift in the way therapists do their work. “As a therapist, all of your training is about how to have this conversation in the moment,” said Albert Thrower, a therapist on BetterHelp. “All of your skills and techniques are based around the idea that you are having a conversation.”

Preliminary results suggest that therapy via texting is less effective than therapy via conversation:

Thrower joined BetterHelp after moving out of state so his partner could go to graduate school. Some of his clients said they had trouble putting their feelings into words — they liked having time to write things out, and Thrower appreciated the novel experience of taking time to sit with what they had written. It felt like writing letters. But it was harder to steer a conversation via text; clients would pick and choose what they responded to. And the long missives that evolved out of point-by-point replies to clients’ messages could become unwieldy as exchanges went on. Over time, he noticed that his text-only clients seemed not to be making as much progress as the ones he talked to on the phone.

Strong, Empowered Woman Exposes Her Vulnerability

Back in the day it was de rigueur to pronounce every woman strong and empowered. Apparently, someone got the zany idea that the more you say it the more it becomes true. 

But then along came #MeToo and the media could not stop presenting women as weak, vulnerable victims. Hmmm.

But, fear not, the mini minds of our elite intellectuals declared that great leaders should show their vulnerability, not to mention their capacity for empathy. It’s what happens when your leading intellectuals do not know how to think.

It ought to be well known that empathy is an excellent faculty when dealing with infants. Young mothers need an enhanced capacity for empathy and, wouldn’t you know it, their brains grow new empathy circuits during pregnancy. No such growths are seen in fathers’ brains.

Better yet, as ought to be known by now, Yale Professor Paul Bloom showed that empathy can make people into raging psychopaths. When you feel empathy for someone who is being victimized you will feel his feelings of anger and his wish to avenge the slight. Link here. 

It’s another of those-- be careful what you wish for-- moments.

Now, we see one Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Center for Disease Control going all whiny and mushy on us. Being a women and having gotten the memo about women’s emotional lability, Walensky issued forth a major league demonstration of weakness and vulnerability. 

She opened this way:

I’m speaking today not necessarily as your CDC director and not only as your CDC director, but as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, to ask you to just please hold on a little while longer….

Sniff, sniff. 

New York Magazine tells the story of her regrettable outburst. You would have hoped that she would have displayed more self-discipline and self-control-- qualities that are vastly more important in a leader than are public displays of vulnerability:

[Walensky] delivered an urgent and emotional call for Americans not to let their guard down amid a rising wave of coronavirus infections, saying in a briefing on Monday, “Right now, I’m scared.”

“When I first started at CDC about two months ago, I made a promise to you: I would tell you the truth even if it was not the news we wanted to hear. Now is one of those times when I have to share the truth, and I have to hope and trust you will listen,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said. “I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.”

“We are not powerless,” she added, pointing to our biggest cause for optimism: vaccines. “We can change this trajectory of the pandemic, but it will take all of us recommitting to following the public-health prevention strategies consistently while we work to get the American public vaccinated.”

Guess what, team. Walensky’s recurring feelings are not science. They are not scientific fact. They are not the truth. A considerable number of scientists believe that we are fast approaching herd immunity. At the least, the issue is under debate.

Besides, she expects everyone to hang in there while she is quivering in her pumps-- and setting a bad example of irresolute cowardice.

One suspects that someone in the Biden administration told her to go out in public and make a fool of herself. It has something to do with a rather skewed view of girl power.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Body Positivity Leads to Sickness and Death

When it comes to the coronavirus death tolls, to say nothing of the hospitalization rates, the problem is not just old age. Among the preexisting conditions and the comorbidities we find-- obesity.

People who are obese are more likely to become sicker from the virus. They are more likely to die from the virus. But, why then, Brad Polumbo asks in an excellent article, is our media actively promoting obesity? The correct term is now “body positivity.” A seriously misguided war against fat shaming has managed to produce more obesity and thus more illness.

Polumbo opens thusly:

The United States has the 13th highest COVID-19 death rate relative to population. Many different factors shaped death rates in the pandemic. But there’s one uncomfortable reason that the U.S. likely experienced more COVID-19 deaths that has largely been ignored because it’s politically incorrect.

Out-of-control obesity rates and the “body positivity” movement predating the pandemic have left the U.S. population disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19 compared to other countries. The U.S. ranks No. 12 in obesity worldwide, one of the highest rates among developed countries. One study found that 90% of worldwide COVID-19 deaths occurred in countries with high obesity rates.

High obesity means higher death rates. As it happens, obesity also weakens the immune system:

COVID-19 is much more deadly for the elderly and those with preexisting conditions that weaken the immune system. One of those conditions is obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Adults with excess weight are at even greater risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The CDC said that of the roughly 900,000 adult COVID-19 hospitalizations from the start of the outbreak to Nov. 18, 30% were attributed to obesity.

But, our woke culture has declared war on shame. No one is allowed to fail any more. No one can be called out for bad habits. And this is so even if some bad habits, like obesity, are markedly unhealthy.

In woke culture, it’s considered too politically incorrect to point out that being fat is unhealthy, even as a pandemic is raging across the country and tragically claiming the lives of overweight people.

Where do young people find this message? For one they find it in the pages of a magazine called Teen Vogue:

“Fat is not a bad word,” blared Teen Vogue. “Fat is not an indication of value, health, beauty, or performance.” (Emphasis mine.) A cancer charity was lambasted for “fat shaming” when it started an awareness campaign about the link between obesity and cancer.

Amazingly, Polumbo continues, the body positivity movement causes people to underestimate their weight problem:

These are just a few examples of a much broader trend, one that has had real consequences. A 2018 study found that the body positivity movement has led people to underestimate their own weight problems, which leads to fewer people losing weight.

The American Newspaper Is Dying

Dare I say, this is slightly misleading. Anyway, it’s still worth a post. The information comes from one Freddie de Boer, a leftist who writes on Substack. Powerline reports the salient points (via Maggie’s Farm). As I have occasionally remarked, some considerable pushback against our new media overlords has been coming from the left. One should not ignore it.

As Steven Hayward astutely notes, the New York Times 1619 Project, a tissue of lies, distortions and fabrications is a symptom of the intellectual decline of newspapers. If the nation’s greatest newspaper has become a propaganda sheet, what hope is there for the rest of the industry.

The basic point, to be classed under the category-- go woke, go broke-- involves the decline and fall of the American newspaper industry. De Boer reports:

  • U.S. newspaper circulation fell in 2018 to its lowest level since 1940, the first year with available data. Total daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) was an estimated 28.6 million for weekday and 30.8 million for Sunday in 2018. Those numbers were down 8% and 9%, respectively, from the previous year. Both figures are now below their lowest recorded levels, though weekday circulation first passed this threshold in 2013.

  • Newspaper revenues declined dramatically between 2008 and 2018. Advertising revenue fell from $37.8 billion in 2008 to $14.3 billion in 2018, a 62% decline.

  • Newsroom employment at U.S. newspapers dropped by nearly half (47%) between 2008 and 2018, from about 71,000 workers to 38,000. Newspapers drove a broader decline in overall U.S. newsroom employment during that span.

  • Layoffs continue to pummel U.S. newspapers. Roughly a quarter (27%) of papers with an average Sunday circulation of 50,000 or more experienced layoffs in 2018. The layoffs came on top of the roughly one-third (31%) of papers in the same circulation range that experienced layoffs in 2017. What’s more, the number of jobs typically cut by newspapers in 2018 tended to be higher than in the year before.

Stick a fork in them. They’re done. 

De Boer explains that the fault lies with university humanities departments. These places produced a generation of brainwashed minions, people who know nothing beyond certain ideologically driven narratives. I would happily declare them all to be leftist narratives, of oppression and rebellion, but they also included the theory of deconstruction, a product of a Nazi philosopher who was a great supporter of Ernst Rohm’s Storm Troopers. For the record, deconstruction is something of a misnomer. The practice resembles nothing, if not a pogrom.

In De Boer's words:

In the span of a decade or so, essentially all professional media not explicitly branded as conservative has been taken over by a school of politics that emerged from humanities departments at elite universities and began colonizing the college educated through social media. Those politics are obscure, they are confusing, they are socially and culturally extreme, they are expressed in a bizarre vocabulary, they are deeply alienating to many, and they are very unpopular by any definition. The vast majority of the country is not woke, including the vast majority of women and people of color. How could it possibly be healthy for the entire media industry to be captured by any single niche political movement, let alone one that nobody likes? Why does no one in media seem willing to have an honest, uncomfortable conversation about the near-total takeover of their industry by a fringe ideology?

And the bizarre assumption of almost everyone in media seems to have been that they could adopt this brand of extreme niche politics, in mass, as an industry, and treat those politics as a crusade that trumps every other journalistic value, with no professional or economic consequences. They seem to have thought that Americans were just going to swallow it; they seem to have thought they could paint most of the country as vicious bigots and that their audiences would just come along for the ride.

Note that de Boer indicts the whole of the media here. After all, as we have been burying newspaper journalism, the task of reporting news has been given to the social media giants, Facebook, Google and Twitter. Strangely, these capitalist behemoths have been proselytizing the same radical and extremist theories that are destroying newspapers.

Obviously, no one is having an honest open conversation about the new extremist social media because they would otherwise be canceled. Unless, of course, they find their way to Substack. It’s the power of monopoly. It can be carried out by a propaganda ministry in a totalitarian country, but it is now carried out by social media titans in our totalitarian country.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Anti-Asian Bigotry

Why has there been a rash of crimes against Asians? And, by the way, who is committing those crimes? Is it white people or some other group? Is it just another manifestation of American racism or is something else involved?

At the least, we should notice that Asians are among the highest achieving groups in the country. If we were living in a true meritocracy they would be holding most of the places in our elite educational institutions. The fact that they outperform other children by a considerable margin has made several local school districts, like New York City, choose to ignore test scores and accept students on the grounds of race. Asians do not ask for set-asides or affirmative action programs. They want to be judged by their abilities, meritocratically.

If anything, they are persecuted because other people envy their success. They are America’s new Jews.

As for the statistics about Asians in America, we turn to a Quillette article by one Manu Sarna. He begins with the crime statistics. Obviously, no one wants to talk about crime statistics because some groups are overrepresented while others are underrepresented. Asians fall in the last category. They are largely law-abiding:

According to the US Department of Justice Asians commit violent crimes at about one-fifth the rate of the total population. That’s the lowest of any group recorded. By a substantial margin.

How many Asians are on the public dole? Sarna does not say how many Central American migrants are on the dole, but you can easily guess that it is far more than it is among Asians. He adds that Asians are overrepresented in many of the most prestigious professions:

US Bureau of Labor Statistics show Asians claim less employment benefits and have higher earnings (according to census data) than any other group. Further, census data shows Asians have the highest rates of business ownership (and growth) and the most success because of hard work and capital. The National Center for Education Statistics show of all degrees in high-paying professional disciplines (law, dentistry, pharmacy, medicine, etc.) 15 percent were awarded to Asians despite being only 6.3 percent of the population. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition highlight that Asians have, unsurprisingly, accumulated real wealth

Is it because of their white privilege? The claim makes little sense, not least because Asians are not white:

But most Asians do not arrive with the advantages (“privileges” in today’s ambiguous phrasing) of English as a first language, nor citizenship, nor meaningful wealth, nor social capital. Each of those is a significant hurdle to overcome. And yet overcome them—at an aggregate level—Asians do.

Why do Asians outperform other ethnic groups? Apparently, they work harder. What a surprise:

Relative to the US population Asian kids do 50 percent more homework, have 35 percent less TV and screen time, are less than half as likely to drink and make up only one percent of all juvenile offenses. The unfortunate “Tiger Mom” stereotype also holds. Asian kids are held to a higher academic expectation than other ethnicities, and Asian parents spend twice as much as others on education.

As it happens, the bigotry against Asians has been provoked by the new equity agenda. If one group has been unfairly kept down, then other groups must have been disproportionately favored. Thus, in order to bring up the underachievers we must bring down the overachievers. It ought to be obvious but affirmative action programs unfairly penalize students who excel in favor of students who do not.

Given the positive story I am telling, why am I calling out anti-Asian bias? Because the recent “equality of outcome” agenda being pushed is a recent and wholly un-American idea. It disproportionately affects Asians. The equality of outcome goal manifests itself in the camouflaged word: “equity.” It is painfully obvious that different cultures have different values. Why shy from the fact? Different values naturally lead to different outcomes. We all start from a different place in life. We cannot change that. We are all raised in different cultures. We cannot change that. Given those conditions we should strive for a level playing field with clear rules of the game. That is American. That is fairness. That is meritocratic.

Of course, meritocracy is currently on life support in today’s America. How under those circumstances can we expect to compete in world markets? We cannot. No surprise there.

Germany Fails the Covid Test

Of course we think the world of the European Union. If we don't we won't admit it. Left thinking intellectuals, in America and Great Britain, insisted that Britain remain within the EU. 

Now, however, with Great Britain and even many American states getting some semblance of control over the coronavirus pandemic, the razzie for the worst management of the current medical crisis goes to Germany. Apparently, Germany just eked out the award over France. 

We all remember when President Trump denounced Germany for freeloading off of America, especially when it came to national defense. We all recall when our great minds denounced Trump for not being sufficiently collegial toward our not-so-steadfast allies. 

It turns out that military incompetence was just the tip of the iceberg of Angela Merkel’s ineptitude.

Of course the leader of the EU, one Angela von der Leyen has aptly lived up to her reputation for complete incompetence. But, people had thought that German Chancellor Merkel was a shining light, the perfect female leader for our times.

It’s time to do a rethink. Merkel and her political party are seeing their popular support evaporate. 

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday:

Europeans of all ages, from children to grandparents, are becoming exhausted with a crisis that is now entering its second year and whose end seems to be receding beyond the horizon. Vaccinations are progressing at a glacial pace, Covid-19 cases are spiraling up again and increasingly unpopular governments impose new restrictions weekly.

The mixture of pessimism, resignation, and anger contrasts with feelings of optimism elsewhere in the West, especially in the U.S. and the U.K., where vaccinations are progressing much faster and attention is moving to reopening the economy.

Germany is a striking case of changing fortunes. The country fared well in the first phase of the pandemic last year, and authorities gained plaudits for keeping infections and deaths low. Now, after four months of largely ineffective lockdowns and with a slow and bureaucratic vaccination regime that hasn’t so far picked up speed, infections are soaring again and the government is seeing its poll ratings plummet.

The elderly cannot get vaccinated today in Germany:

Millions of Germans aged 70 and older, as well as teachers and people with chronic diseases, haven’t yet been vaccinated. Europe was late in ordering the shots, late in approving them and has also been hit by manufacturing hiccups and delivery delays.

As it happens, Americans suffering from Europhilia will ignore this story. They despise the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, who has effectively led his nation out of the pandemic. But they love continental Europe, and consider it a role model for a government where the leaders are completely incompetent, but at least they fill diversity quotas.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

What Happened to Rules Girls?

A quarter of a century ago two everyday women, by name of Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider published a dating manual called The Rules. It proposed a return to more traditional dating behaviors, with the goal being to get married. The book became a mega best seller, but it generated a significant and concerted counter-reaction. 

Feminists despised the rules. They had been hawking the virtues of spontaneity, and had been rejecting the notion that women should marry young. Besides, they said, Fein and Schneider had no professional credentials. Feminists were arguing, sometimes explicitly, but always implicitly, that marriage was a patriarchal conspiracy to keep women out of the workplace and off the battlefield.

In truth, precious few of the feminists who were railing against the rules had any professional qualifications themselves-- unless you count journalism as a professional qualification. What were Betty Friedan’s qualifications? Idem for Simone de Beauvoir.

Besides, the tag line concept from the book clearly defied feminist orthodoxy. Fein and Schneider advised women to be “easy to be with and hard to get.” Feminist revolutionaries wanted women to be hard to be with and easy to get. It was clearly a reversal of traditional values. As for whether women gained an advantage by giving it away for free, I leave for you to decide. 

In a strange way Fein and Schneider were showing women how to act as though they respected themselves. For that they were roundly denounced as a force trying to inhibit female sexuality. They were also recommending that women take control of their sexuality and define it in terms of marriage. That is, in terms of a man's commitment to them. For that they were also roundly denounced.

At the least, and well before Sheryl Sandberg coined the regrettable phrase, they were not telling women to lean in, to assert themselves, to run after men and to drag men into the boudoir. They were showing women how to go about being pursued. And, dare we say, a woman is not going to be pursued if she is doing the pursuing.

Anyway, feminists hated the rules because they considered it a full frontal attack on female empowerment.

In truth, very little about the rules was very novel. It had been common practice for decades. What was novel was the need to tell women to get over their newly found tendency to give it away for free and to learn to respect themselves. Obviously, this was judgmental. It was telling women that they had gotten it wrong. Many women who had been following the feminist life plan and who had more than their fair share of walks of shame, were appalled. They went into highest dudgeon against the rules.

In all likelihood, rules girls are now a relic. In the age of Tinder, girls are more likely to follow the feminist dictum and to hard to be with and easy to get. How is that one working out?

Today’s strong and empowered women go for the gusto. They take what they want. They treat men like instruments of their pleasure. They avoid formalities like dating. They hang out and hook up. Dr. Phil likes to say: How is that working out for them?

So, let’s skip forward from the mid 90s to 2006, where Carolyn Hax fielded a letter from a woman who was having some considerable trouble dealing with the fact that a man she had met for a casual date did not call her back. Obviously the letter is a decade and a half old. But Hax must have thought very well of her response, because she just retrieved it for our edification. She seems to be on hiatus so she is reprinting some old favorites.

Here is the letter:

So, I went out with this guy for a drink. I thought we had fun. It was quick but we both had somewhere to go.

Well, he emailed the next day saying he would call the following week when he returned from a weekend away. I have not heard from him — it has been over two weeks. I would like to know why.

Can I email him? I need to know if it was me — or what the deal is. Not that I think he is "the one" for me, or even that I want to go out with him again. Am I obsessing a little too much?

I do not recall precisely what Fein and Schneider would have said, but I suspect that they would have said that if he is interested he will call. They wanted women to play hard to get. If he doesn’t call, he is not interested. Unless, of course, he had an accident and is lying in a coma somewhere. 

And besides, why is she looking to embarrass herself? Doesn’t she have enough self-respect to take No for an answer? For all any of us know the two were incompatible, or perhaps she was hard to be with, or perhaps there was no chemistry, or perhaps she speaks too loudly or softly or perhaps she gave him a hard time about picking up the check.

Does she really want to put him in the position where he has to critique her appearance, her attitude, her ideological commitments or her bad manners? If he does not call he is being polite by not wasting his or her time. 

As for his statement that he will get in touch, clearly, he should not have said it and not done it. And yet, by the rules of dating, a man might say such things in order to avoid awkward explanations about why he is just not into her. Why would he be into someone who is so insecure that she has to know why he does not call her back for a second date? 

Was she looking for a performance critique? Did she think that it was a job interview? In truth, she was acting as though it was.

And now, without further ado, here is the Hax response:

So, you’re saying you don’t care about him, but you care about his opinion of you?

If you’d like to see him again, then email him to say you’d like to see him again. If you don’t, then don’t, and celebrate the simplicity of it all.

Astutely, Hax notes that the woman cannot seem to make up her mind. Saying that you do not care to see someone does not jive with the notion that she wants to hear what he thought of her. Obviously, this notion of asking him to offer an opinion is anything but polite. 

I would guess that the woman feels rejected and does not like to feel rejected. And yet, contacting him will offer the chance for him to reject her again. What purpose would that serve? Or perhaps, she wants him to show some interest so she can be the one doing the rejecting. Will that really make her feel better?

But then, after telling the woman to make up her mind, to figure out what she really, really wants, Hax says that if she wants to see him again she should write him and tell him that she wants to see him again. 

On this point, Fein and Schneider would disagree. They tend to advise women against throwing themselves at men. It does not bespeak strength; it bespeaks weakness. It is like offering oneself up for free, not as someone of value who needs to be pursued and wooed, and to whom one needs to make a commitment, but as someone who will have placed all her cards on the table and who then tries to bluff.