Oy Vey

You may have seen this reported:

The NY Post reports on a different aspect of the same poll: Majority of Americans 18-24 think Israel should 'be ended and given to Hamas'.

The survey, conducted THIS WEEK by Harvard-Harris polling, found 51% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 said they believed the long-term answer to the Israel-Palestinian conflict was for “Israel to be ended and given to Hamas and the Palestinians.”

The article gets around to reporting the oppressor question later on. Which is worse? Hard to say.

Ilya Somin, writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, tries to find a pony in the mounds of horseshit, suggesting that his readers Don't Put too Much Stock in Survey Finding that 67% of 18-24-Year-Olds Say Jews are "Oppressors".

A likely explanation is that the question is badly designed. Before going into this, I should note that I have considerable background in public opinion research, and am the author of a number of academic publications on voter knowledge and ignorance, including my book Democracy and Political Ignorance (Stanford University Press). That doesn't make me a source of infallible wisdom in this field. Far from it! But it does mean I have relevant expertise on such matters, more so than at least some of the other commentators opining about this question.

There are multiple flaws in the way the question is designed, each of which may lead to skewed results. First, the question asks about two things at once: whether Jews, "as a class" are "oppressors" and whether they "should be treated as oppressors." This is a survey no-no because it leads to inaccurate results among respondents who agree with one of the statements, but not the other, and because a compound question can easily confuse respondents who don't read it carefully (which many don't).

Could be a problem with question design, but that by itself doesn't explain the disparity between age groups, does it? Another explanation is that young people, eyes glazed over by social media, have a hard time focusing their attention beyond six consecutive words. Or maybe don't know what a "false ideology" is.

Or maybe it really is the American garbage educational system; see our week-old items here and here.

Also of note:

  • University presidents went wrong? Say it isn't so! Patterico has a long and interesting take on that Kerfuffle that keeps on Kerfuffling: Where the University Presidents Went Wrong in the Stefanik/University Presidents Kerfuffle.

    Anyone following the news at almost any level is no doubt familiar with the recent hearings in which Chief Trump Apologist Elise Stefanik asked some smirking college presidents whether calling for the genocide of Jews violated their school’s code of conduct. If you somehow missed this controversy, the nuts and bolts were thoroughly covered at my blog in this post by my co-blogger Dana. The relevant videos are there for you to watch.

    It’s been a few days since this happened, and I’ve tried to absorb some of the commentary that has come down since. In one camp you have honest champions of free speech, like Ken White, or FIRE, or Nicholas Christakis, as well as their compatriots like Jonathan Chait. These folks generally take a more absolutist view: the school presidents were right; it depends on context, and a lot of the uproar is a dishonest appeal to dopey populism.

    In the opposite camp, you have the folks who echo Stefanik, and insist that there is no such thing as context here. If someone asks if genocide is wrong—or if it violates your code of conduct, which is just a lot of words that boil down to “it’s wrong”—the answer is simple: yes, genocide is wrong; yes, calling for genocide violates our code of conduct; yes, anything that Elise Stefanik wants to label a call for genocide really is one; and anyone who disagrees is a horrible anti-Semite.

    I think I fall into a third camp. …

    Patterico's argument is detailed and fair to all sides. Except to Elise Stefanik; he really despises her.

  • Indeed. Kevin D. Williamson has a long essay in Saturday's WSJ and sets off a major truth bomb about Election 2024: You Asked for It, America. And if you're a fan of invective that (probably) goes right up to the limit of the WSJ's language rules, you will not want to miss it.

    I have my own theme song for the 2024 election, David Bowie’s magnificent 1995 collaboration with Brian Eno: “I’m Afraid of Americans.” It is an anthem for our times.

    Presidential elections are almost always showy, nationalistic affairs, full of appeals to patriotism and unity, occasions upon which even Ivy League diversity officers wave the flag and festoon the public square in red, white and blue. And that points to the tension at the heart of the dreadful and contemptible 2024 presidential election, which almost certainly will be fought out by Donald Trump, a depraved game-show host who tried to stage a coup d’état when he lost his 2020 re-election bid, and Joe Biden, a plagiarist and fabulist first elected to public office 53 years ago who is going to be spending a lot of time this campaign season thinking about his family’s influence-peddling business and the tricky questions related to it, like whether you can deduct hookers as a business expense.

    Run Old Glory up the highest flagpole you can find, but 2024 is going to be the least patriotism-inspiring election in American history so far, a reminder of what a depraved, decadent, backward, low-minded, primitive, superstitious and morally corrupt people we have become.

    Don’t blame “the system,” you gormless weasels. You chose this.

    KDW is… not optimistic.

Recently on the book blog:

Last Modified 2024-01-10 7:11 AM EDT

The Canceling of the American Mind

Cancel Culture Undermines Trust and Threatens Us All―But There Is a Solution

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Back in 2019 I read The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, and (grep tells me) I've mentioned it numerous times since then.

Lukianoff is back, with a new co-author, Rikki Schlott. And their mission this time is to explore the epistemic pandemic of "Cancel Culture". Coddling discussed what they called the "three great untruths": "What doesn't kill you makes you weaker." "Always trust your feelings." and "Life is a battle between good people and evil people." This book adds a fourth, called the "Great Untruth of Ad Hominem": "Bad People Only Have Bad Opinions".

Which makes Cancel Culture sensible, sort of. What to do when confronted with people with Bad Opinions? Unfortunately, that pesky First Amendment makes it impractical to jail them. But that Great Untruth allows you to make the logical leap that they are (indeed) Bad People. So go ahead and feel free to do whatever you need to punish them extralegally: ostracise them, get them fired, censor their writings, erase their names from the historical record, … whatever tactic comes to hand is fair game!

The authors do a good job looking at the history (with a shout-out to another great "saw it coming" book, 2015's So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson). If you've been paying attention to this phenomenon over the last few years, you might be familiar with many of their examples, drawn from (of course) academia, (but also) journalism, publishing, science, medicine, psychotherapy, politics, and more. It's a scourge.

Although most of the examples here are products of totalitarian wokeism, the authors go out of their way to criticize both sides of the political spectrum, detailing conservative's ham-fisted efforts to suppress their opponents' opinions in the marketplace of ideas: book banning, "divisive concepts" laws, and the like.

The weakest bit of the book is its discussion of book banning, which edges into an argument that we should just trust librarians to do the right thing without political interference. That is at best a mixed bag. I wince at the "Racial Justice Resources" compiled by the library at the University Near Here, which spans the ideological range from Ibram X. Kendi to Ta-Nehisi Coates. And there's the Anti-Racism Zine published by Portsmouth (NH) Public Library. And those are just the libraries I frequent.

And then there's the recent installation of Emily Drabinksi, self-described "Marxist lesbian" as president of the American Library Association. Who rhapsodized at "collective power" to build a "better world."

I'm unsure how that's going to play out. Marxists do not have the best history with respect to free speech.

The book's subtitle promises a "solution" to Cancel Culture. It's actually multi-pronged, the first being aimed at parents: raise "anti-fragile" and "free range" kids. Other chapters advocate common-sense activism aimed at K-12 schools and universities. And advocate something that's taken hold elsewhere: defund DEI departments, and ban the ideological purity tests known as "diversity statements" in hiring.

Personal note: I got a taste of Cancel Culture a few months back, visiting Caltech for its "Alumni Weekend". Nobel Laureate Robert A. Millikan, also the president of Caltech (1920-1946) is now a campus non-person, thanks to his onetime embrace of eugenics. Millikan Library has been renamed "Caltech Hall" and the bust of Millikan that used to stand outside the Norman Bridge Laboratory of Physics has been removed, to some unknown fate. It's unclear if this effort has actually made anyone's life better.

Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:08 AM EDT