Last week, an unhinged Twitter rant became the most popular thing in the liberal echosphere. Sam Kriss breaks this down and hits on a theme I’m returning to more and more: how badly Donald Trump’s election has unhinged the Left. Those of us who blogged the Bush years remember how bad it could get. This looks even worse.
Last week, Jimmy Fallon had Donald Trump on his show. As is his wont, he didn’t press Trump on any real issues, but mostly joked around and chatted.
Apparently, this is no longer acceptable:
On Monday’s Full Frontal, Bee called out her fellow late-night host Fallon for his widely-panned softball interview with Donald Trump.
“Why do so many Americans think playing footsie with fringe hate groups isn’t a disqualifier from polite society, much less the presidency?” Bee asked. “Maybe because that’s the message they get from entertainment giants like NBC,” she said, referencing how they fostered Trump’s image through The Celebrity Apprentice.
She said the network “tacitly condoned a race-baiting demagogue” even after they claimed to “sever ties” with him following his presidential campaign announcement. “If by severing ties, you mean inviting him on their flagship comedy programs to show millions of Americans what a fun guy he is.
Why did Trump host Saturday Night Live last fall? “I guess because ratings matter more than brown people,” Bee said. “Sure, he’s making life palpably dangerous for Muslims and immigrants, but hey, he’s good entertainment! Here’s a thought: when Holocaust survivors are telling you this guy gives me déjà vu, maybe don’t invite him up into your house to play with your adorable children.”
I guess “ratings matter more than brown people” might resonate with Bee, whose show is typically pulling in a bit under 700,000 viewers a night, placing her almost dead last in the late night derby. She’s drawing a fraction of the audience Fallon is and an even smaller fraction of the audience John Oliver is drawing on a pay cable channel. But sure, Sam. I’m sure the problem is how much you value brown people. We just don’t get you.
The thing is, this taps into something very important. Part of the appeal of Trump is precisely that he drives liberals crazy. In the Second Age of Political Correctness, there is a tendency for people, even young people, to stampede toward something different. Ross Douthat:
But the Democratic Party’s problem in the age of Trump isn’t really Jimmy Fallon. Its problem is Samantha Bee.
Not Bee alone, of course, but the entire phenomenon that she embodies: the rapid colonization of new cultural territory by an ascendant social liberalism.
The culture industry has always tilted leftward, but the swing toward social liberalism among younger Americans and the simultaneous surge of activist energy on the left have created a new dynamic, in which areas once considered relatively apolitical now have (or are being pushed to have) an overtly left-wing party line.
In late-night television, it was once understood that David Letterman was beloved by coastal liberals and Jay Leno more of a Middle American taste. But neither man was prone to delivering hectoring monologues in the style of the “Daily Show” alums who now dominate late night. Fallon’s apolitical shtick increasingly makes him an outlier among his peers, many of whom are less comics than propagandists — liberal “explanatory journalists” with laugh lines.
As Douthat goes on to point out, it’s not just late night television. Everything has becomes politicized. Awards shows, sporting events, movies, you name it. If you’re culturally conservative or just not down with latest in political correctness, you can’t turn on the TV or bring up a web page without some smarmy Lefty telling you, in condescending tones, how stupid and backward you are. Hell, I’m socially liberal and it annoys the hell out me.
(It must be said, Bee is actually one of the worst at this. I liked her on the Daily Show but her new show is unwatchable. I’m used to liberal late night hosts but Bee combines the idiocy of Bill Maher and the charm of Hillary Clinton. She says the kind of things that make smug liberals cheer — hence the frequent links from Vox — but make everyone else change the channel.)
Returning to Douthat, he argues that the monolithic cultural landscape has given the Democrats the illusion that they’ve triumphed and caused them to surge hard left. And at the same time, it has made conservatives feel like they are under siege. And we’re seeing a response culminating in the rise of Donald Trump. And that in turn is making the Lefties hysterical. Hillary Clinton is still favored to win the election, but, to listen to Democrats, you would think the apocalypse is upon us because the race has gotten very tight.
Note where Clinton is hemorrhaging support — young people. They are stampeding not just to Donald Trump but also to Gary Johnson. Why? Well, on Twitter, Robby Soave linked to his article that details how much young people dislike the current push toward political correctness and smarmy liberal self-worship. With the Left now establishing a cultural hegemony in entertainment and academia, being liberal isn’t an act of rebellion; it’s an act of conformity.
I despise this notion that everything in our society has to have a political context. This is an idea that originated with the Marxists. It was disgusting when it slithered into public consciousness and it’s disgusting now. As I’ve said over and over again, Donald Trump is not Hitler. He’s a venal, lying dumpster fire who has no business near the White House. But he is not so evil that everything in our culture must be requisitioned to oppose him. Jimmy Fallon (and SNL) decided to keep the politics out of their entertainment. I think our culture would be a darn sight better off if more people followed their example. And to judge by how thoroughly Fallon is stomping Bee in the ratings, most people agree.
Social science can be so amusing. There is a bit of a contretemps over several recent articles that used datasets supposedly measuring the personality traits of liberals and conservatives which has resulted in several abashed corrections. The researchers used the data in an effort to show that personality traits are not the cause of political attitudes, but instead both are correlated with some other factor, most likely genetic. Interesting enough. This finding is not what is being corrected.
Instead, what is being corrected is the rather casual assumption in the studies by the researchers that a personality factor identified in the datasets they used is supposedly associated with conservative political views. That factor is called Psychoticism. They hasten to explain that Pyschoticism is not the same thing as psychotic. The original article, “Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies,” in the American Journal of Political Science explains:
Having a high Psychoticism score is not a diagnosis of being clinically psychotic or psychopathic. Rather, P is positively correlated with tough-mindedness, risk-taking, sensation-seeking, impulsivity, and authoritarianism (Adorno et al. 1950; Altemeyer 1996; Eysenck and Eysenck 1985, McCourt et al. 1999). In social situations, those who score high on P are more uncooperative, hostile, troublesome, and socially withdrawn, but lack feelings of inferiority and have an absence of anxiety. At the extremes, those scoring high on P are manipulative, tough-minded, and practical (Eysenck 1954). By contrast, people low on P are more likely to be more altruistic, well socialized, empathic, and conventional (Eysenck and Eysenck 1985; Howarth 1986). As such, we expect higher P scores to be related to more conservative political attitudes, particularly for militarism and social conservatism.
Well, guess what. It turned out that they’d coded their spreadsheet wrong. Higher “psychoticism” scores actually correlated with liberal beliefs, not conservative ones. So their study, cited by many liberals as proof that Conservatives Be crazy, showed the exact opposite of their conclusions.
The best thing about science is that it has a corrective mechanism: someone else can do the experiment and check the results and see if they’re borne out. This mechanism works well in the physical sciences, where mechanisms are fairly deterministic — no matter how many times you drop a steel ball, it will always follow the same law of gravity. It works reasonably well in the biological sciences. In biology, systems are more complex and a bit more unpredictable. On balance, heavy drinking will kill you. But there are people who drink like fish and live long lives because genes or other factors or just plain luck keep them going. You also have a problem of reproducing experiments — I can mix chemicals over and over again and weed out the bad results. But I only get to do a 40-year study of people’s eating habits once.
In the social sciences, though, all bets are off. Part of it is that you are dealing with complex systems. Economies are complex, humans are complex and we only get to live out history once. Part of it is an “observer effect”. People behave differently or even lie to researchers when they know they are part of an experiment. For example, Sweden claimed the number of men who had ever seen a prostitute dropped massively after they imposed their “Nordic Model” on sex work, which only makes sense if massive numbers of Swedish men were struck dead by the legislation. In reality, fewer men were willing to admit they had because of the social pressure.
But it’s also ideological. Physicists, chemists, engineers and biologists tend to have a mix of political views; social scientists tend to be almost exclusively liberal. Physical and biological research only occasionally has big political implications (e.g., global warming, GMOs, evolution). And even in these cases, the science is not political; the science is politicized by opportunistic politicians.
But in the social sciences, almost everything has some political implication. So results that confirm the ideological bias of the researchers sometimes isn’t questioned too carefully. Massive tomes on income inequality are praised despite serious methodological flaws. Papers supporting Keynesian economics are taken as gospel despite huge flaws. Garbage research claiming massive amount of sex trafficking is used to inform policy.
An example more germane? A lot of people have claimed that Donald Trump’s supporters are authoritarian. This sounds about right to me except … that analysis is based on sociological debris. Here are the questions used to determine if someone is authoritarian:
Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: independence or respect for elders?
Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: obedience or self-reliance?
Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?
Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: curiosity or good manners?
Everyone claims this is the “definitive” test of authoritarian tendencies. Is it? Those traits seem to track culture far more than they track politics. My grandparents’ generation would have shown up as very authoritarian even though they voted FDR in four times and huge numbers of them had fled Europe because of the rise of authoritarianism. But because this test shows that conservatives are more authoritarian and all the sociologists believe that conservatives are more authoritarian, everyone accepts it.
But which is more authoritarian? Believing in a government that governs least? Or believing in a government that controls our lives? The problem here is that liberals don’t think of themselves as authoritarian even thought they are. If you believe in government controlling healthcare, education, retirement and half of the country’s wealth, you’re authoritarian, no matter how sincerely you believe that gays should be able to get married or how liberal your parenting methods are.
(This problem of nomenclature comes up a lot. I can’t find the link, but McArdle has written about a study that showed that liberals valued “fairness” more than conservatives. Every liberal scholar and pundit cited it was proof of how unfair conservative ideas were. But conservatives objected, arguing that wealth redistribution was not “fairness”. They saw it as plunder. Conservatives think that allowing people to keep what they’ve earned is “fairness”. In the end, the researchers agreed that people might differ on the definition of “fairness” and changed their word choice.)
In any case, this is yet another demonstration of how bias clouds the social sciences. This was a very basic error, something that even a modicum of checking would have shown. but no one questioned it, no referee gainsaid it, no one reproduced the results because it confirmed what liberals wanted to believe.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been accumulating stories about how our college students are being molly-coddled and led to expect that life will never be difficult, uncomfortable or “triggering”. Here’s just a sample of the crap going on on university campuses.
A few more notes on the upcoming election.
First, the Massachusetts gubernatorial race is a tight one between Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker. I’ve mentioned Coakley before. I don’t generally like the term fascist but … gee, what do you say about a person who persecutes innocent people based on discredited testimony and junk science but thinks cops who rape toddlers with curling irons should be let out on their own recognizance? What do you say about someone who embraces trafficking hysteria and makes such appalling arguments for the destruction of civil liberties that she is routinely laughed out of court by hard-bitten conservative justices? If Massachusetts elects a power-hungry power worshipper like Coakley, they deserve what they’re going to get.
I’m starting to believe that the Wendy Davis campaign is a false flag operation by pro-life activists. How else to explain how it has become such a hilarious implosion. Last week, she accused her disabled opponent of not caring about disabled people. When criticized, she had a “some of my best friends are in wheelchairs” press conference. This week, she’s decided she can win because of dildos and interracial marriage.
I guess it makes as much sense as thinking you’re going to ride pro-choice sentiment into Austin.
That post criticizes Greg Abbott for not saying whether he would support a ban on interracial marriage and for arguing in the courts in favor of Texas’ restrictive laws on sex toys. What the author doesn’t seem to realize is that Abbott is talking about his role as attorney general. As attorney general, he won’t deal with an interracial marriage case because the Courts have already struck down anti-miscegenation laws unanimously. I seriously doubt that Abbott, who is married to a woman of another race, would support restoring the interracial marriage ban.
As for the dildos case … again, Abbott was acting as attorney general. As attorney general, he has to represent the state and defend those laws, whatever he thinks of them. I have argued in this space before that I don’t think the executive should defend laws that are blatantly unconstitutional, such as a ban on free speech. But (1) that decision is left to the President (or the governor, in this case). The attorney general pushes the President’s position, no matter what he thinks of it or he resigns; (2) Texas’ dildo laws, while stupid, aren’t exactly the suspension of habeas corpus.
Wheelchairs, mixed races and dildos. The Davis campaign think they are onto a winner. I think their offices need to be checked for nitrous oxide leaks.
Finally, I won’t post the video, but I will link you to Hot Air’s post on a Move On video, featuring Robert Reich, the Littlest Communist in Washington. Reich argues that Republicans are going to use a little known procedure called reconciliation to advance … well, the usual Left Wing mythical playbook: tax cuts for the rich, the end of healthcare, fossil fuel interests, deregulation and OMG, it will be the END OF THE FUCKING WORLD!
Those of you with memories longer than an episode of The Big Bang Theory will recognize this “little-know procedure” as the way Obamacare was passed. The hypocrisy of Move On, their belief that voters are stupid, their condescension … well, it would be surprising if it were someone other than MoveOn.
Right now, the Republicans hold a lead in the polls and look likely to take the Senate. Democrats, who two years ago mocked Republicans for claiming the polls were skewed, are claiming the polls are skewed. Maybe they are, but there is one indicator that tells me that the Democrat are about to lose the Senate and possibly the White House in 2016.
When I started blogging, way back in 2004, I noticed a pattern. If someone disagreed with me forcefully but respectfully, it was usually a conservative. If someone called me a fag, accused me wanting to suck George Bush’s dick, asked me how much money I was getting from the NRA and hoped I got beaten up in a dark alley, it was almost always a liberal (usually for something I’d written at Moorewatch).
That script flipped in 2006 and especially in 2008 after Obama’s election. Disagreements from liberals were … well, never respectful but better than they had been in 2004. It was disagreement from conservative that got nasty (although never as nasty as the liberals were in 2004). It was perfect illustration of Jane’s Law:
The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.
It’s changing again. It has been for the last year, maybe longer. If I have the temerity to dispute liberal talking points on a liberal board, I get pilloried, called names and sometimes banned. Liberal tweeters are on a hair-trigger for screaming and blocking those who disagree with them. Meanwhile, the commentary on conservative boards has been growing steadily more constructive and upbeat.
The liberals are scared. They think they are going to lose power and, even worse, those evil evil Republicans are going to get it. Actually, it might be even worse: a Republican party with libertarian tendencies, if you can imagine such a thing. Talking to liberals, you would be forgiven if you didn’t realize that Republicans — a few, at least — are the one driving the bus on criminal justice reform, police demilitarization, civil liberties and the end of crony capitalism. No, it’s all about teh gays (which no Republicans care about any more) and teh guns and teh abortions.
We have a few weeks before the election and politics can change very fast. But from where I’m standing, it looks like a good year for the GOP.
I just hope they don’t fuck it up again.
Well, it’s a scientific fact, friends. We don’t live in a democracy:
A new scientific study from Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more. And they’ve found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.
An oligarchy is a system where power is effectively wielded by a small number of individuals defined by their status called oligarchs. Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.
For their study, Gilens and Page compiled data from roughly 1,800 different policy initiatives in the years between 1981 and 2002. They then compared those policy changes with the expressed opinion of the United State public. Comparing the preferences of the average American at the 50th percentile of income to what those Americans at the 90th percentile preferred, as well as the opinions of major lobbying or business groups, the researchers found out that the government followed the directives set forth by the latter two much more often.
There are so many problems with this.
First, we are not a democracy. We never have been a democracy. And God willing, we never will be one. We are a Constitutional Republic. That means that our politicians are (at least in theory) restrained in their actions by the Constitution. The beauty of the system is not that the people get what they want — since what they want is often horrifying. We don’t want a system that bends and sways with every little breeze that blows. No, the beauty is that — in theory — the politicians are held accountable for their decisions to the people.
The idiocy of “democracy” can be demonstrated by simply looking at the public’s preference on policies. The Civil Rights movement, for example, often went in the face of public opinion. Almost all civil liberties, including freedom of speech and most protections of accused criminals, would be curtailed if the majority got their way. The Iraq War enjoyed huge support in the beginning. The real estate bubble was a result of very popular government policies that encouraged every more lending (e.g., low interest rates). One our biggest problems is the federal budget deficit. The deficit is primarily a result of two converging public opinions: the public does not want taxes raised; nor do they want spending cut. Hell, I’ve read some books arguing that our very independence never had majority support.
Screw the masses. They are an important check on government policy, not a guide to it.
The liberals touting this study are aware of this on some level. Many of the policies they support — strict gun control, socialized medicine, greenhouse gas emissions control, fricking Obamacare — do not enjoy majority support. That doesn’t stop them from pushing those policies because they are “good” for us. Yet somehow this “father knows best” attitude disappears when we’re talking about opposing gun control or hydrofracking. It’s absurd.
I mean, where is this enthusiasm for populism when it comes to the Tea Party? The Democrats often try to cast the Tea Party as an astroturf creation of the rich but it is a deeply populist movement and has drawn stiff opposition from the very oligarchs that are supposedly ruining our country. So which is it? Is the populist wing of the Republican Party the problem? Or is the establishment wing the problem?
As for this specific study, it only goes back to 1980 thus implying that oligarchs are more powerful than ever. I suspect that if it were extended back, we would see that this has always been true. I was just reading The Skies Belong to Us, which is about the “golden age” of hijacking in the late-60’s and early-70’s. During that time, American planes were being hijacked every couple of weeks. One of the impediments to doing anything about it? The airlines and their army of lobbyists in Washington opposed anything that would inconvenience travelers or make air travel more expensive. Special interests have always wielded outsized power. And they always will because government makes it worth their patronage.
I will let on that things seem worse now: our government is completely incapable of doing even the most basic things. Our regulatory system is spinning out of control, spending can not be cut in any meaningful way, our immigration system is broken, our tax code is a giant anchor on the economy. But to the extent oligarchs are ruining our Republic, it is partly because of policies that liberals support: massive government spending programs that get contracted to the politically powerful (the area around Washington is the wealthiest in the country); an absurdly complex tax code that tries to push policy through taxation; a powerful regulatory state that crushes small businesses with regulations that big businesses can absorb; gerrymandering that makes politicians unaccountable (yes, liberals do this too; check out Maryland’s districts some time).
I don’t think this study is wrong, per se. I just think it’s barking up the wrong tree. I wish that fixing our country’s problems were as simple as following opinion polls. Unfortunately, the solutions to our problems are likely to be unpopular. Take the deficit. The public support raising taxes … on the rich. But that won’t get you nearly enough revenue to close the gap. The public also support cutting spending … on foreign aide. That will give you about 1% of the cuts you need. The most important steps — overhauling the tax code and reigning in entitlements — have very little support.
The problem with our country is not a lack of “democracy”. The problem is a lack of political courage and accountability.
This is what constitutes thinking over at MSNBC:
So if my kid is everybody’s kid, when is someone going to pick up my grocery bill?
(Also, she’s factually wrong. We’ve invested a lot in education; over $10,000 per student.)