on discourse about disagreements

One of the more significant features of the current moment is the extent to which political allegiance has become for so many an all or nothing proposition. It is impossible for some to even acknowledge a weakness in their own point of view, or to acknowledge the strength of some aspect of the opposing point of view, whether it’s gun rights, abortion, immigration, climate science, or the presidency of Donald Trump. Anyone who deigns to acknowledge the slightest deviation from absolute agreement with the absolute extreme of one side is banished. This has led to much of the violent mob actions in 2017.

Damon Linker writing for The Week provides a wonderful model from the Left of how to do better, and how to do very well in talking about these things. He is a voice of reason in an online cacophony. Here he makes suggestions on how to work on the question of immigration and refugees. (h/t Clifford Humphrey). That’s just a taste of his approach to these things. He’s always worth reading.

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on finding common ground

There is a marvelous profile of a Democrat in Iowa that underscores much of the problem in our politics today. The problem is the polarization on certain issues that have come to define Left and Right when many people in each party, Democrat and Republican, are not doctrinaire enough for the leadership and/or the social media mobs that want to define each party. I hope the Democrats and the Republicans both find more room for people like Mr. Fedler to direct their agendas.

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on avoiding the division that exists

Mark Steyn observes the monotonous response to the bombing in Manchester, the mantra of refusing to allow terrorists to sow division, which ignores the sharp division that exists in Western countries between those who wish them to continue in their diversity and those who wish to unite them under Islam.

Does history matter? Does the present? What will the future be like? These are questions Western leaders need to consider as they observe the treatment of history and the present by Islamists.

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on unintended consequences

Walter Russell Mead has been a keen observer of society and its arrangements and structures, especially what he calls the “Blue model” of government, where public spending becomes a key support of economic support for certain demographic groups. Notably in the past decade Mead has noted the increasing difficulties for the Blue model, and the increasing weakness of its support of those it intends to help.

The current situation in Puerto Rico typifies the problem, and Mead comments here. As the title of his post highlights, the unfortunate irony is the cruel results of what is apparently intended as compassion.

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on privilege

Last night after a senior vocal recital, after chatting for awhile with some colleagues I walked to the front of the auditorium to greet the student and wish her well, which she gratefully received. As I turned to go it occurred to me that the group of people standing in the aisle were not in fact simply gathered there chatting with one another, they were in a line waiting to congratulate her.

I honestly had not recognized their formation as I strolled past, and as I returned no one seemed particularly frustrated that I had violated the order of things. Though I initially wondered if that was a function of my position as a faculty member, this morning it seems equally possible it was a function of patient indulgence of the elderly.

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Internet outrage

Early this morning as I was beginning to wake up, for some reason it occurred to me that I had given a lot of time the evening before, time that would have been better spent on just about anything else, trolling Twitter, Facebook, and some blogs for news to get righteously outraged about. I wondered why, and resolved to do better.

Michael B Dougherty described the experience this way: “Do you lie awake in bed more often these days, unable to sleep, scrolling through Facebook or Twitter on your phone, trying to ignore signs of stress? Perhaps a faint taste of acid in your mouth? . . . Does it make you want to spend more money, or write yourself more reminders to do “self-care?” Maybe you suspect that if anyone else cares about your self it is only to notice that deep down you’re just as much of a hateful loser as they are?”

It’s a useful essay, somewhat of a mea culpa, and I think a sincere one, about his contribution to the problem, since, as he confesses in the title, “I write on the internet.” He diagnoses the problem pretty well, and gives a spot on anecdote from his own experience, that is so spot on to my own experience I cringed as I read it.

The internet doesn’t coddle you in a comforting information bubble. It imprisons you in an information cell and closes the walls in on you by a few microns every day. . . .

An example: I’m worried about the culture on college campuses. Maybe you’re not, but I am. The rash of near-riots against right-wing speakers was troubling enough. But the internet wasn’t satisfied with the level of anxiety that might inspire in me and it quickly delivered to me dozens of stories about an obscure opinion piece written by an obscure group of college students from a college that had been, until that day, rather obscure to me. These people I’d never heard of wrote an editorial which argues that the concept of “objective truth” is propaganda for white supremacy. . . .

In an age in which print journalism reigned supreme, no one would have known about, heard of, or been troubled by this juvenile brain fart unless one of its authors ran for the U.S. Senate decades later. . . . But on the social networks where I used to enjoy looking at pictures and doings of my former classmates, there was this story, waiting to inject a little more of that acid taste in my mouth. . . .

I tried to remind myself that this was trivial bullshit, and didn’t effect anything in the world but pointless outrage. But of course that didn’t help. The poison of it flowed through me. My mind lit up with the desire to see the hands of a silent and awful deity plunging into the green plushy sward of Earth, pulling its tectonic plates apart, and shaking them until all human life and evidence of our civilization is dispersed into the outer oblivion of space. . . .

All of this occurred to me in less than a millisecond. And then I scrolled to the next dumbass news event my friends were sharing.

I am also a dumbass. I am pondering a nice Luddite solution, though it’s going to be difficult and require a lot of creativity. God help me. God help us all.

Read the whole thing, please.

h/t @Chris_Arnade

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Spiritualism and secular society

The religious fervor with which some groups in our society attack those who seem to advance an opposing point of view has become noteworthy. Civil disagreement and discourse has become the exception rather than the rule.

This essay by Joseph Bottum provides an engaging explanation for this phenomenon. He suggests that it illustrates the ongoing presence of some specific theological ideas inherited from the Protestant consensus of the 19th century that continue to inform the American understanding of the world, even in the absence of any particularly Christian belief.

It’s a bit longer than the normal internet fare, but definitely worth the time to read and consider.

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anti-Semitism, the DNC, and Donald Trump

One of the more puzzling accusations underlying a lot of recent talk about President Trump is that he harbors anti-Semitic animus. At the same time, the support for Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) among many on the left as the new leaders of the Democrat National Committee requires substantial rewriting or ignoring of his past writings, activities, and relationships.

The evidence useful for assessing the beliefs of both men is discussed usefully by Jeff Ballabon in his essay.

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on the press in the age of Trump

It’s been difficult to sort out what’s happening in the United States in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election as President. One of the main consequences has been a pretty dramatic reassessment of journalism as it’s been practiced. It will be interesting to see in 10 years what sort of media, news, and journalistic environment exists.

I’ve never studied journalism or media, but having been a consumer of it for several decades I feel somewhat familiar with the topic, as do we all, though it’s changed a lot since I first became aware of it in the days before cable television. Amidst all the current debate about the press, its role and status in society, and the deference it should receive from the public and the President, this essay has been useful for me.

Lee Smith starts from what has been a central claim about Russian involvement in the election and Donald Trump’s alleged Russian connection. Mr. Smith worked with the journalist who probably knew the most about Donald Trump, the late Wayne Barrett, and observes that Barrett at no time had developed significant content related to Trump and connections with Russia.

The current media concentration on stories related to alleged Russia ties became Smith’s entrance into the changes in journalism in the internet age. There was a shift from a focus on content to a focus on giving advertisers access to readers. That made reader interest paramount rather than content. Thus, content has taken a back seat to innuendo, regardless of the factual basis for it.

Read the whole thing.

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why I’m wary about getting another cat

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