You want to know what I hate? I hate at least two things about this Unherd headline from Park MacDougald: "How Twitter forced us to hate".
- Twitter is in no position to "force" us to do anything.
- "Us"? I seriously doubt that MacDougald includes himself with the haters.
But let's see if there's anything worthwhile below the headline:
It is hard not to be cynical about “the media” these days, especially if you work in it. Spend any significant amount of time reading newspapers and magazines, watching cable news, or following discussions on Twitter, and you notice that a great deal of what is written and broadcast has a drearily predictable quality. Indeed, discrete events seem almost irrelevant except insofar as they can be slotted into pre-existing storylines.
Take the debates surrounding the trucker protests in Ottawa. The mainstream press, by and large, has attempted to assimilate the protests into categories familiar from the Trump years.
According to Politico, “far-Right” truckers, some of them sporting “Confederate and Nazi flags”, have “wreaked havoc on Canadian cities”. In the Guardian, one writer warned that the “siege of Ottawa” was an “astroturfed movement funded by a global network of highly organised far-Right groups and amplified by Facebook’s misinformation machine.” Slate, after dropping the trigger words “militia”, “hate”, “extremist”, and “Nazi”, called the protests an “armed occupation of a G-7 capital”. All linked the truckers with the domestic threat posed by Fox News, the Republican Party, and the American far-Right.
Critics of the establishment have responded with their own counter-narrative, aimed at portraying the truckers in a sympathetic light while focusing attention on the tyrannical response of the Canadian government. After Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergency Powers Act, Tucker Carlson labelled Canada a “dictatorship” and warned that similar measures would soon be coming to the United States. Over the weekend, as Ottawa police attempted to clear the city centre, Twitter was filled with viral videos of police violence against the protestors, juxtaposed with old quotes from progressive leaders praising the BLM protests of summer 2020, intended to highlight their hypocrisy.
These narratives have a recognisable logic, which holds whether the underlying event is the truckers or the Capitol riot. They are tribal, pitting a virtuous “us” against a malevolent “them”. They are curated to provoke fear of, and rage against, the out-group, often through “empathic triggers” that highlight aggression against the in-group. They are also, in a loose sense, conspiratorial, running together phenomena that have no logical connection except within the pattern of the narrative.
I don't disagree with MacDougald's description of the symptoms. Hanging the blame on "social media" (not just Twitter, it turns out) is misguided. Viewing the participants in tribalistic warfare as weak minded, easily swayed puppets is just wrong.
I'm in no mood to be reasonable about this. But at the Dispatch, Timothy Sandefur makes an utterly reasonable demand: Open the Books on Critical Race Theory
It’s no surprise that parents are outraged at public schools teaching “critical race theory” (CRT)—or whatever term one prefers for the fashionable notions that America is systemically racist and that the solution is to treat people differently based on skin color. Taxpayers, after all, typically expect the schools they pay for to teach kids history, science, literature, and math—not to indoctrinate them into false and destructive political dogmas.
Many school bureaucrats deny that these notions are being taught in classrooms, but they are. Former teacher Kali Fontanilla—to cite just one example—recently revealed how schools in her home state of California are “hyper race-focused,” with social science classes centered around teaching that “America was built to only help the white man.” Curricula rooted in CRT dispense with historical facts, and aim instead at instructing black students that capitalism, private property rights, the constitutional rule of law, and other elements of American democracy are inherently biased against them, so that nothing short of a radical overhaul of government and culture can enable them to succeed. White students, on the other hand, are taught that whatever success their families have attained is merely a consequence of undeserved “privilege,” for which they must atone. (As for Asian students, they’re effectively ignored.)`
The problem, as Sandefur notes, is that large swaths of the government school establishment believe that it's their job "to rescue kids from their own parents."
Making the curricula/syllabi available to parents (and taxpayers) would help shine a light on what's being pushed at the kiddos. That's what Sandefur pushes for, more power to him.
I'm still holding to my more radical (and totally unachievable) position: repeal compulsory schooling laws.
On another front in the ongoing struggle… Stanley Kurtz takes to the New York Times to recount The Battle for the Soul of the Library.
Recent news stories covering clashes over what books students should read in class and have access to in their school libraries have overlooked a major player in our unfolding scholastic drama. We’ve been reading about traditionalist parents, progressive teachers and politicians of various stripes. Missing, however, has been the figure of the woke librarian.
What in the world is a woke librarian? After all, through venerable proclamations like the Library Bill of Rights, America’s librarians have long pledged to “provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues.” The declaration adds, “Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” This professional stance is known as “neutrality.”
By vowing ideological neutrality in the provision of knowledge, librarians ideally enable readers to develop opinions based on broad consideration of the available alternatives. In contrast, librarians who allow their personal politics to control or curtail the provision of information violate neutrality and betray the public trust. A woke librarian, then, is a contradiction in terms.
Contradiction or not, woke librarians — by which I mean librarians who see it as their duty to promote progressive views on race, policing, sexuality and other issues — are everywhere. Yet the Library Bill of Rights has it right: The library should remain sacred ground — a neutral sphere above the fray — precisely because libraries leaven and inform the fray itself.
This is why I continue to harp on a couple of local examples:
- The Portsmouth Public Library published (at taxpayer expense)
"Anti-Racism Zine", 100% woke
(To PPL's credit, however, they do a pretty good job of "ideological neutrality" on the bookshelves.)
- The University Near Here's Library does its part by hosting its Racial Justice Resources page. Also 100% one-sided woke advocacy. No heretics like John McWhorter or Thomas Sowell allowed!
These are the two libraries I'm most familiar with; needless to say, they could do a better job of pretending to follow the ideological neutrality recommended by Kurtz.
- The Portsmouth Public Library published (at taxpayer expense) an "Anti-Racism Zine", 100% woke advocacy.
Tsk. NHJournal's Michael Graham reports on NH's Senator Maggie: Hassan Took Campaign Cash From Lobbyist for Chinese Tech Giant Tied to Iran, North Korea. His article is based on a National Review story Senate Democrats Rail against Corporate Influence While Accepting Piles of Tainted Cash. Whoa.
Quoting from the latter (NRPlus) article:
[…] New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan has frequently returned to denouncing the corrupting influence of money in politics as a campaign strategy. In 2016, Hassan attacked her opponent, incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte, asserting that Ayotte is “bought & paid for by corporate special interests.” Fast-forward five years and Hassan has not dropped the rhetoric — she’s a supporter of the “For the People” Act, which she claimed would stop “corporate special interests that dictate our elections — but she’s happy to continue to let them dictate hers for now.
In 2021, Hassan accepted $429,150 in contributions directly from Amazon, BlackRock, Intel, Deloitte, Barclays, Nike, and other corporate PACs, and an additional $264,000 through the same loophole Warnock took advantage of. Hassan was similarly at peace with hauling in $522,138 and $77,250 in corporate executives’ and corporate lobbyists’ money, respectively. Notably, Hassan had no issues taking $1,500 from current and former lobbyists for ZTE: A Chinese technology company that’s been fined for exporting U.S. technology to Iran and North Korea and has been designated a national-security threat by the Federal Communications Commission.
Gee, I was gonna vote for Maggie, but now…
Just kidding. I was never going to vote for Maggie.
But do Republicans deserve to win? Daniel Henninger takes an uncontroversial stance: Democrats Deserve to Lose the Midterm Elections.
No one has more reason to be shocked by the results of last week’s San Francisco recall election than the three school-board members whom voters threw over the side. The vote totals to kick them off the progressive island were 72%, 75% and 79%.
Commentaries by Democrats are now emerging to argue the party will be wiped out in November’s midterm elections unless its candidates distance themselves from the progressives. As a long-ago boss of mine might have said as he prowled the loading dock: These Democrats are a day late and a dollar short.
With readers’ indulgence, I’d like to play the devil’s advocate for the three card-carrying San Francisco progressives. Across the whole landscape of American politics the past five years and more, what evidence has there been that influential Democrats were willing to break with the party’s left? Nearly none.
A Democrat wipeout in November would be nice. We'd have at least a couple years of gridlock.