Saturday, November 4, 2017

David Roberts: ‘America Is Facing an Epistemic Crisis’

Special counsel Robert Mueller

From Vox:

The U.S. is experiencing a deep epistemic breach, a split not just in what we value or want, but in who[m] we trust, how we come to know things, and what we believe we know — what we believe exists, is true, has happened and is happening.

“The primary source of this breach, to make a long story short, is the U.S. conservative movement’s rejection of the mainstream institutions devoted to gathering and disseminating knowledge (journalism, science, the academy) — the ones society has appointed as referees in matters of factual dispute.
“In their place, the right has created its own parallel set of institutions, most notably its own media ecosystem.
“But the right’s institutions are not of the same kind as the ones they seek to displace. Mainstream scientists and journalists see themselves as beholden to values and standards that transcend party or faction. They try to separate truth from tribal interests and have developed various guild rules and procedures to help do that. They see themselves as neutral arbiters, even if they do not always uphold that ideal in practice.
“The pretense for the conservative revolution was that mainstream institutions had failed in their role as neutral arbiters — that they had been taken over by the left, become agents of the left in referee’s clothing, as it were.
“But the right did not want better neutral arbiters. The institutions it built scarcely made any pretense of transcending faction; they are of and for the right. There is nominal separation of conservative media from conservative politicians, think tanks, and lobbyists, but in practice, they are all part of the conservative movement. They are prosecuting its interests; that is the ur-goal.”

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Lincoln Anthony Blades: ‘Why HBO’s “Confederate” Is Completely Unnecessary’

From Teen Vogue:

HBO has officially announced that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will be producing a new series for the network called Confederate. The program is described as a reimagined America in which the South successfully seceded from the Union and kept slavery in place. In this alternate American universe, the Mason-Dixon line becomes a militarized zone full of freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, and journalists, prior to a third Civil War....

My ... initial reaction to the news [was] ... sheer bewilderment as to why two incredibly successful white showrunners felt that in this nation — with its sordid history and current inability to collectively grapple with even the most factual truths of slavery — this is the story most important to tell. I can’t understand why, throughout the vast options of different artistic directions, they decided that revisiting black pain, and further extending the concept of how a black body can be successfully dehumanized, was the best route to go. It’s also very telling that the creators of a show that has been routinely criticized for its lack of diversity are attempting to seriously construct a world inherently tied to blackness, when they've been unable to even introduce complex characters of color into the fantasy world of Game of Thrones.

There is an expansive pantheon of valuable shows/movies depicting African-American life, such as The Color Purple, Glory, and Roots, to name a few. These have proved to be important works of art that have pushed forward black history, propagated black culture, and presented American society with tough truths and even tougher questions — and based on what we know about the show so far, Confederate doesn’t have the feeling of any of that. It feels like a gratuitous and pointless exploitation of our current racial divide, and something that will likely lack nuance and thoughtfulness. In truth, my reaction to this news was simply that Confederate may be the most unnecessary series ever created.

Read the entire article. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Nothing to Say

The year is almost half-over, and I haven’t written anything for my blog.  What gives? 

I can explain in two words: Donald Trump.

Despite my many reservations and its many flaws, I still thought of the United States in my own mind as the greatest country on Earth.  No more.  The greatest country on Earth does not make someone like Donald Trump its head of state. 

On election night 2016, Trump’s achieving the presidency, in the words of a friend, “felt like a death in the family.”  It was the death of my confidence in the American people to make reasonable choices.  

In 2016, 62,984,828 voters looked at this boorish bully and thought, ‘Yeah, he’d make a good president.’

The fact that so many voters — albeit not a majority — could look at the 2016 campaign and see Trump as presidential material is unfathomable to me.  If anyone saw this boorish bully on the campaign trail as someone who ought to be entrusted with the nuclear launch codes, we have no common point of reference for any kind of conversation.  That’s one reason why I haven’t been using my blog to articulate my opposition to Trump: his unfitness for the office of president ought to have been self-evident.  If you can’t see that, I have nothing to say to you.

I’m disappointed that the mainstream media nitpicked every tiny flaw in Hillary Clinton’s career — ultimately turning the insubstantial issue of her e-mails into a full-blown crisis that did much to cost her the election — while giving Trump free airtime and a free ride, largely laughing off his campaign until it gained too much momentum for them to seriously affect.

And I’m especially disappointed in those ultra-liberals who could see “no difference” between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and chose either to vote for a third-party candidate or sit out the election altogether.  If you could see no difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the 2016 elections — if you believe that a President Hillary Clinton’s administration would be under investigation for collusion with Russia or something like it — I have nothing to say to you.  However, I’m sure that a Republican-controlled Congress would have been perpetually investigating President Hillary Clinton, whether circumstances warranted it or not, because Republicans like to use investigations as a political weapon, to keep their opponents on an unsure footing.  

Given her constant criticisms of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, this is what I imagine ultra-liberal Susan Sarandon must be thinking.

I thought that the ultra-left had learned its lesson during the 2000 election, when they regarded Al Gore as insufficiently progressive and split the vote enough for the decidedly non-progressive George W. Bush to win.  But it happened again. Because the Democratic presidential nominee insufficiently championed the appropriate progressive causes, those on the ultra-left enabled the election of a president determined to roll back those causes.  And it will probably happen several times in the future.  If a progressive can’t see the absurdity and futility of that position, I also have nothing to say to them. 

And above all, Trump’s election proves that eloquence and reason ultimately don’t carry the day, so why bother engaging in them?  It will be interesting to see where the United States — and, indeed, the planet — will be four years from now.  Maybe I’ll feel like breaking my silence before then, maybe not.  Until then, I’ll have nothing to say.