It's sad, really. Holy cow, yesterday seemed to be an all-hands-on-deck colorectal exam of what stupid people call the "insurrection" of last year. It would have been a great day for Putin to have invaded the Ukraine; it might have made minute 22 of a 30-minute newscast.
But there were interesting observations amid all the rhetorical garbage. For example, Bari Weiss hosted Jonah Goldberg to write on The January 6th Republicans. It's long, but here's the bottom line:
Just the other day, over at American Greatness, the Pravda of Trumpism, some former Trump White House intern explained that, so long as the left’s narrative about January 6 is bad, conservatives should stop condemning the rioters and embrace them as heroes: “If their aim is to make January 6 their Reichstag Fire, then we should go forward celebrating the events of that day as our Storming of the Bastille; a day where a symbol of the degeneration of our ruling class into total corruption and tyranny was challenged, and the elites were shown just what happens when millions of freedom-loving citizens finally grow sick and tired of a boot perpetually stomping on their necks.”
Never mind that while neither story about January 6 is true—it was neither the storming of the Bastille nor the burning of the Reichstag—the author openly admits that “our” side should just pretend their story is true. Of course, this whole thing is a piñata of immoral asininity; you can bash it from any angle and yield some reward. But one additional point is worth emphasizing: The degeneration of the ruling elite most responsible for the riot has nothing to do with leftwingers, Deep Staters or globalists—never mind pedophillic bloodsuckers dreamed up by QAnon. That mob was there because they were lied to by a president with a thumbless grasp of the truth and an utterly pagan understanding of the constitutional order.
In 2016, I wrote about how the right was succumbing to a kind of Invasion of the Body Snatchers dynamic whereby, one by one, principled conservatives would suddenly discover that blind loyalty to Trump was the essence of conservatism. For a long time, I thought I could argue my friends and fellow conservatives out of their conversion. It took me a long time to realize that as Marshall McLuhan put it, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is a hallucinating idiot . . . for he sees what no one else does: things that, to everyone else, are not there.” I do think the blind loyalty to Trump is fading at the margins. But the addiction to good-versus-evil narratives pitting the honorable and decent “us” against the villainous and sinister “them” is as strong as ever—and there is little appetite for the kind of argument and persuasion that sustains democracy.
With apologies to the English poet Ralph Hodgson, we increasingly live in an age where some things have to be believed to be seen.
Advice I've given before: don't sign up with either Team Scylla or Team Charybdis.
They didn't make the trains run on time? I try to avoid linking to the same author twice in a day, but it's an unusual day. Jonah Goldberg writes at his home base, the Dispatch, admitting: What I Got Wrong About Fascism.
In January 2008 I published my first book, Liberal Fascism.
It did well, reaching No. 1 on the New York Times and Amazon bestseller lists. It has been published in many languages. It was, to put it mildly, controversial and remains so to this day.
While I would certainly write the book differently today, I still stand by much of it, proudly so in many regards. For instance, I take great satisfaction that my hammer-and-tongs attack on Woodrow Wilson’s nativism, racism, and authoritarianism, much ridiculed at the time (the headline of the New York Times review of Liberal Fascism was a mocking “Heil Woodrow!”), is now much closer to conventional wisdom on the left and right.
But there’s one important claim that has been rendered utterly wrong. I argued that, contrary to generations of left-wing fearmongering and slander about the right’s fascist tendencies, the modern American right was simply immune to the fascist temptation chiefly because it was too dogmatically committed to the Founders, to constitutionalism, and to classical liberalism generally.
Almost 13 years to the day after publication, Donald Trump proved me wrong.
It shouldn't have been surprising. (Although I was surprised too.) Our common crooked-timber humanity practically guarantees that we can be goaded into unthinking mob action, independent of party registration. We can also become worshipers of power and personality. I'm not as despondent as some, because doomsayers have been consistently wrong about America since… well, 1781 or so.
Meanwhile, our glorious media protects us. At City Journal, Christopher F. Rufo tells the story of BLM, Reuters, and the Price of Dissent.
Zac Kriegman had the ideal résumé for the professional-managerial class: a bachelors in economics from Michigan and a J.D. from Harvard and years of experience with high-tech startups, a white-shoe law firm, and an econometrics research consultancy. He then spent six years at Thomson Reuters Corporation, the international media conglomerate, spearheading the company’s efforts on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced software engineering. By the beginning of 2020, Kriegman had assumed the title of Director of Data Science and was leading a team tasked with implementing deep learning throughout the organization.
But within a few months, this would all collapse. A chain of events—beginning with the death of George Floyd and culminating with a statistical analysis of Black Lives Matter’s claims—would turn the 44-year-old data scientist’s life upside-down. By June 2021, Kriegman would be locked out of Reuters’s servers, denounced by his colleagues, and fired by email. Kriegman had committed an unpardonable offense: he directly criticized the Black Lives Matter movement in the company’s internal communications forum, debunked Reuters’s own biased reporting, and violated a corporate taboo. Driven by what he called a “moral obligation” to speak out, Kriegman refused to celebrate unquestioningly the BLM narrative and his company’s “diversity and inclusion” programming; to the contrary, he argued that Reuters was exhibiting significant left-wing bias in the newsroom and that the ongoing BLM protests, riots, and calls to “defund the police” would wreak havoc on minority communities. Week after week, Kriegman felt increasingly disillusioned by the Thomson Reuters line. Finally, on the first Tuesday in May 2021, he posted a long, data-intensive critique of BLM’s and his company’s hypocrisy. He was sent to Human Resources and Diversity & Inclusion for the chance to reform his thoughts.
He refused—so they fired him.
You can read the essay that got Zac Kriegman fired from a business that is protected by the First Amendment here.
Don't hold your breath… waiting for your public servants to provide clear guidance on Covid. After two years, they still can't manage to do that, as Jacob Sullum points out: Rochelle Walensky Said an Antigen Test Is a Good Tool for 'Judging Infectiousness.' Now She Says 'Its Information Will Not Be Useful.'
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its guidelines for Americans recovering from COVID-19 last week, reducing the recommended isolation period from 10 days to five, many critics complained that the agency said nothing about using rapid antigen tests to verify that infected people are no longer contagious. Yesterday the CDC addressed that concern, sort of, by adding this advice:
If an individual has access to a test and wants to test, the best approach is to use an antigen test towards the end of the 5-day isolation period. Collect the test sample only if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication and your other symptoms have improved (loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation). If your test result is positive, you should continue to isolate until day 10. If your test result is negative, you can end isolation, but continue to wear a well-fitting mask around others at home and in public until day 10.
Notably, the CDC is still not actually recommending that people leaving isolation use antigen tests before returning to work or otherwise resuming normal activities. Its advice is limited to what people should do if they can obtain a test kit and are already inclined to use it. That stance is puzzling, since a negative test result provides additional assurance that you won't infect others, while a positive result, as the CDC acknowledges, indicates that continued isolation is prudent.
Jacob also observes: "None of this inspires confidence in an agency that Americans should be able to trust during a pandemic." True.
From the Pun Salad "This Should Go Without Saying" Department. Peter Franklin asks, reasonably enough, that we: Don't silence conspiracy theorists.
The chaotic end of Trump’s presidency provided a pretext, though, for a much wider purge of anything deemed to fall under the category of conspiracy theory or misinformation. This week the Republican congresswoman, Majorie Taylor Greene, had her Twitter account permanently suspended; and Joe Rogan who has had content removed by YouTube.
The attack on conspiracy theory — and the power of the elites to define it as such — is a dangerous one. And not just because of the threat it poses to free speech and the growing influence of big tech that it points out. It’s also because conspiracy theories are an understandable — and sometimes useful — response to a confusing world. To repress this very human instinct risks doing more harm than good.
That’s not to say that this mode of thought is never pathological. But if the conspiracy theorist is obsessive or hateful, the problem is the obsession and the hate — vices which can apply to any belief system.
The trouble is, many conspiracies and cover-ups do exist. And they’d never be uncovered if no one theorised about them.
Also risking "doing more harm than good": the effort on both left and right to deal with "big tech" behavior.
And finally, a pithy quote. It's from Bryan Caplan's article: Radical Libertarian Economics in Search of a Title.
Free markets are awesome because they give business incentives to do good stuff that sounds bad. Governments are awful because they give politicians incentives to do bad stuff that sounds good.
Someone make me a t-shirt with that on it.