Category Archives: Politics

Caitlin Flanagan and Jordan Peterson; two bad tastes that taste bad together

Anti-feminist Caitlin Flanagan insists that sexism guru Jordan Peterson has the left terrified because he’s knocking our legs out from under us by shattering identity politics. Once you take the liberal fixation with identity politics off the table, “it was possible to talk about all kinds of things—religion, philosophy, history, myth—in a different way. They could have a direct experience with ideas, not one mediated by ideology.”

Like Laura Ingraham’s complaints about America, that’s sort of true. If you eliminate race and gender from the discussion of history and religion (as this slacktivist post notes), then we do talk about things in a different way. But it’ll be wrong.

Whether you’re male or female, black or white is massively woven with religion and history, with how they treat you and how you experience them. Even today, we have people who preach that blacks are cursed to inferiority by the sin of Ham, and that women are made by god to have no rights. Peterson’s take on this amounts to Big Whoop, Everyone’s Disadvantaged “Maybe you’re too short, or you’re not as beautiful as you could be, or, you know, your parent, your grandparent was a serf — likely, because almost everbody’s grand-, great-grandparent was. And you’re not as smart as you could be.” Oh, and maybe you’re Hispanic or black and you’ve suffered discrimination, can’t get your kids in a good school, lost a job, but it’s the same thing. Nobody’s got a perfect life.  The solution is the free market!: “We’re going to outsource it to the marketplace. You’re going to take your sorry pathetic being, and you’re gonna try to offer me something that maybe I want. And I’m going to take my sorry pathetic being, and I’m gonna say, “well, all things considered, as well as I can understand them, maybe I could give you this much money”, which is actually a promise for that thing. And you’ve packed all of your damn oppression into the price. And I packed all my oppression into the willingness to pay it. And that solution sucks. It’s a bad solution. But compared to every other solution – man, it’s why 10 percent of us have freedom”

As Flanagan says, Peterson reaches this nitwit conclusion by ignoring “identity politics.” If you ignore that it was perfectly legal when I was born to refuse to hire a woman, a black man, a Jew, to shut them out of the free market, to bar blacks from even spending money in the same stores and restaurants as white people yes, that’s seeing things in a different (though entirely unoriginal) way. But it’s wrong. It’s the same-old, same-old about how identity politics is bad, a ridiculous issue, rather than stuff — abortion, birth control, integration, equal rights — that has a massive effect on people.

And, of course, to assume that Peterson is somehow operating from a dispassionate, rationalist stance free of ideology when he glorifies male dominance is just nonsense. Or that Flanagan, a woman who hires a nanny then condemns feminists and working mothers for hiring nannies (see first link in post) is making an objective judgment. She despises feminists and working mothers and here’s a guy who doesn’t have any more use for them; is it surprising she fantasizes he’s going to end feminism?

Liberals don’t fear Peterson’s bad ideas. Speaking personally, I fear the number of people who will swallow them and advocate for them because there are always people willing to embrace the bullshit that white, male supremacy is both right and natural so discrimination is okay. That doesn’t make Peterson any righter. And it doesn’t mean he’s the antidote to identity politics; he embodies them.

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Laura Ingraham pretends her words have no meaning

So Fox News’ Laura Ingraham went on a long rant about how “in some parts of the country it does seem like the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore. Massive demographic changes have been foisted on the American people and they’re changes that none of us ever voted for and most of us don’t like. From Virginia to California, we see stark examples of how radically in some ways the country has changed. Now, much of this is related to both illegal and in some cases legal immigration that of course progressives love.”

In a strange way, she’s right, just not the way she thinks. The America I know and love doesn’t exist in some parts of the country. The parts where they hate and fear Hispanics, adore Trump and desperately fear equality for non-whites. Sure, those parts have always been there, but at least when I was a teen we were lurching, in awkward baby steps, toward greater equality for all, back before the right-wing began pushing back in favor of white supremacy in the 1980s. Back then, while immigration had a lot of opposition, there was also pride that someone from a “shithole country” would want to come here and start fresh. When the Statue of Liberty was still “the mother of exiles.

Ingraham’s anti-immigrant screed (which also included bashing Ocasio-Cortez) got a thumbs-up from David Duke. Apparently being so blatantly racist didn’t suit whatever Ingraham’s target demographic is, so she promptly announced it had “nothing to do with race.” Nope, she was upset because “the rule of law, meaning secure borders, is something that used to bind our country together …, I made explicitly clear that my commentary had nothing to do with race or ethnicity, but rather a shared goal of keeping America safe and her citizens safe and prosperous.”

Um, no, talking about demographic change is about race. It’s nothing to do with secure borders, particularly when she cites legal immigration as part of the problem. This is a standard racist dog whistle, pretending they’re concerned about legal immigration rather than America having more Hispanics than they want. It’s why even though I don’t like illegal immigration I’ll never sign on with anti-immigrant groups. I’d be fine if we had the same number of people coming in legally; most of them wouldn’t. Likewise, I suspect the stuff about keeping America safe references the constant alt.right theme that white people need safe spaces, by which they mean anyone who isn’t them should be excluded from everywhere white people want to be.

Even if she wasn’t dog-whistling in her apology (“See, alt.righties, I’m still one of you!”) her apology is bullshit. What she said simply doesn’t mean what she claims it does. It’s roughly as convincing as Jordan Peterson explaining when he calls for enforced monogamy to solve the incel problem, he obviously didn’t mean we should enforce monogamy. Like Ingraham, I guess his career still depends on not being caught crossing certains lines.



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The Klan, divorce in America and the Sub-Mariner: books and graphic novels

THE SECOND COMING OF THE KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition by Linda Gordon is a history written in full awareness how much that Klan’s anti-immigrant, anti-semitic, anti-Catholic politics mirrors the current era, and how the Klansmen (and women) saw themselves as the Real Americans in contrast to their opponents (Jews being their biggest bogeyman). After the initial attempt to revive the Klan in the wake of Birth of a Nation flopped, a couple of PR whizzes (Elizabeth Tyler and Edward Young Clarke) bought the organization and took it national. Their trick was that along with politics they presented the KKK as a fraternal organization much like the Masons or the Elks (and it did have a lot in common with them), with the added plus that if members recruited new Klansmen, they got a commission (part of which was passed up the line). Tyler was the first of several prominent Klanswomen who found the organization a perfect outlet for ambitions as motivational speakers, organizers and businesswoman. Interesting, and depressingly familiar

When I was a tween, my impression from TV was that divorce was slightly edgy, disreputable and just not done by normal people. Ah, youth; DIVORCE: An American Tradition by Glenda Riley shows that the US was already divorcing at a much higher rate than Europeans, and had been doing so for years (the US allowed judicial divorce long before Great Britain did). Riley tracks the constant push and shove between those who wanted to make marriage eternal, those who thought an exit option was necessary, and those who thought marriage, not divorce, was the real problem (the whole “we don’t need a piece of paper to prove we love each other” of the 1960s had lots of precedent). This has lots of detail, some of it amusing, such as learning Indianapolis was once the quickie divorce capital of America (though the statistics don’t confirm the reputation). Interesting again

MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THE GOLDEN-AGE SUB-MARINER by Bill Everett and others was one I picked up on sale last year. While I’m not particularly a fan of Namor, there’s some fun to be had here; in one story, when Namor busts up a ring of radium thieves he keeps the rare element for use by his own people (not yet identified as Atlantean) rather than returning it. The backup, the Angel, is pretty fun too; the protagonist apparently has no secret identity, being the Angel full-time (not the only Golden-Age hero of whom that was true). Entertaining, but I doubt I’d have bought it at full-price.

#SFWApro. Art by Alex Schomburg, all rights remain with current holder.

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See the repression inherent in the system! Alex Jones, Andrew Kavanagh, Sarah Jeong

A lot of conservatives love to claim they’re uniquely, horribly oppressed. They’re denied writing gigs for harmless tweets about executing women who get abortions. They’re criticized for saying stuff people disagree with. And now Facebook has blocked Alex Jones, which is exactly like Kristalnacht in Nazi Germany! Or that covering religious leaders who don’t support Trump is “trying to steal the microphone” from his supporters (because there’s only one mike?).

This is, unsurprisingly, bullshit. A private company denying Alex Jones (the guy who claims the dead in the Sandy Hook shooting were all fake and that the government has child sex-slaves on Mars) access to people’s FB feeds isn’t censorship or “unpersoning Alex Jones” As Infowars is still up and running, they ain’t “deplatforming” him either (LGM mocks them some more). It’s FB deciding it looks better if it’s not in bed with a Trump-allied bullshit artist (I assume Jones lies his ass off about this stuff, rather than being delusional). If conservatives want to argue that private companies shouldn’t be allowed to regulate free speech, fine; so far they’re focused entirely on FB and Twitter because they’re cracking down a little on hate speech and right-wing bullshit.

While they do enjoy posing as persecuted victims, I think this is just a case of working the refs. If FB caves, great; if it doesn’t, they can tell readers and listeners that the liberal power is growing and getting ever more scary. Never mind that going by Infowars’ terms of service for commenters, Alex Jones would have to ban his own content. Throughout this century the right-wing has been whining about liberals saying mean things (or dominating college campuses)while claiming persecution if anyone questions their own bullshit.

Case in point, Sarah Jeong, the tech reporter hired by the NYT. She’s said some outrageous and funny things on Twitter. For instance, in response to Andrew Sullivan, who thinks it’s perfectly rational and not at all racist to consider whether black people are genetically dumber, Jeong tweeted ““Are white people genetically predisposed to burn faster in the sun, thus logically being only fit to live underground like groveling goblins?” So the right wing started screaming about how this should not disqualify her for a job — oh, wait, their free-speech beliefs evaporated and they demanded the Times axe her. To its credit, the Grey Lady kept her on.

And then there’s supposed persecution of Brett Kavanagh, Trump’s Supreme Court pick. Self-proclaimed liberal feminist Lisa Blatt insists she knows Kavanagh, he’s a really nice guy, and his intellectual qualifications are great. So his actual policies should be irrelevant, right? Why, she doesn’t even know how he’d rule on abortion, but she’s sure it’ll be a really awesome reading (at the link someone describes this as “West Wing fanfic”). I’m sure it’s completely irrelevant to Blatt’s assessment that she might be arguing cases before the court and she likes how he votes. Though she’s not the only one to make similar bad arguments.

As Dahlia Lithwick points out, Obama’s pick, Merrick Garland, was perfectly nice and perfectly qualified, but Republicans didn’t care. They know perfectly well it’s not about competence or how nice you are (and being nice to people in his set doesn’t mean Kavanagh is actually nice), it’s about politics. Blatt may somehow have missed this but before Kavanagh got picked, conservatives were touting him precisely because he’d be a dependable anti-abortion, pro-business, pro-religious conservative vote. Just as one National Review writer thought George W. Bush getting his second term, thereby getting to appoint Roberts and Alito, the Iraq War was worth it. What are 100,000 dead compared to a solidly conservative Supreme Court?



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The zero sum game

A zero sum game is one where if one side does better, the other side has to do worse. For a lot of conservatives, that’s the game of life in the USA: if minorities or women succeed, whites or men have to fail.

In some specific situations, that can be true: if the jobs at the local auto plant open to women or black Americans but the number of jobs don’t increase, it’s possible some white men will lose jobs they’d otherwise have received. The game is zero sum. But most life-games don’t work like that. And they shouldn’t: the goal, as blogger Fred Clark puts it, isn’t to get ahead at the expense of others, it’s that we all get ahead.

Trouble is, as noted, some Republicans don’t see it that way. Sure, maybe having black people not shot by cops, having gay people able to marry freely doesn’t take anything material from them. There’s room for all the marriages: straight, gay, same-race and interracial, same faith and inter-faith. But if gay interracial atheist/Muslim couples get to marry just like straight white evangelicals, straight white evangelicals must have lost something right? It’s only the satisfaction of knowing they’re better than The Other, but if they lose it when gays gain, there you are! Zero sum game. As Clark also put it, “The tribal anxiety felt over every advance of feminism is intermixed with the anxiety felt over every advance in civil rights for ethnic minorities. The sense of tribal besiegement that perceives a same-sex wedding as some kind of setback is intermingled with the anxiety over the new neighborhood mosque.”

Which leads us to another Clark post on Slacktivist, discussing Sheila Butler, a 67-year-old Southern Baptist church-goer in Alabama who supports Trump as the one thing between America and a black uprising. All that stuff like Black Lives Matter, football players protesting, Confederate monuments going down, closet Muslim President Obama — she spent the Obama years as terrified as back in “that Rosa parks time … that was a scary time.” Because nothing implies a physical threat to white people like a black woman wanting equality?

Butler goes on to explain that blacks really have no cause to complaint (slave owners treated them very well), but at the same time she’s terrified that things like memorials to lynching victims will make blacks have “violent feelings — feelings of revenge.” So at some level, she’s aware that black people have justifiable reasons for anger, she just can’t admit that to herself. And so she rationalizes that what she’s opposing isn’t a cry for equality, but a cry for revenge, a cry to lash out and punish white America. And so, of course, she’s perfectly justified in refusing them (“If they want justice, that’s scary.” as someone put it in comments). Revenge and retribution makes it a zero sum game; why should she lose so they can get ahead.

I’ve read earlier articles discussing white Americans who are convinced that’s the real issue: one race has to be on top, and if it’s not whites, then whites will be on the bottom. Oppressed. Punished. They’ll have to take what white America’s always dished out. (“This would be a nation where whites weren’t only a minority, but disadvantaged, punished for their collective crimes, because, as he put it, ‘we haven’t been the nicest race.'” as one WaPo article summed it up). I’ve always assumed that was a failure of imagination — the speakers couldn’t believe in a better world — but maybe, as Clark points out, it’s also a failure of courage. If they want revenge, there’s no reason for whites to support change. There’s no reason not to resent blacks, Hispanics, women doing better. There’s no reason to feel resisting them makes you the bad guy. It’s a zero sum game. If they want justice, it isn’t.

It’s the difference between what BLM says (Black Lives Matter …. too) and what they imagine it’s saying (Black Lives Matter … yours don’t).

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There was no room for these added links about sexism in this morning’s post

So here we go! Some are a bit old, I really need to clean out my bookmarks more regularly.

Samantha Field responds to a blog post about how men want to marry debt-free virgins without tattoos. According to the original post, that’s not all men want: we also want women who haven’t gone to college (they might get ideas above their station) and ideally have stayed at home under their father’s control until we meet them. In short, as Field puts it, it’s not about tattoos, it’s about desiring women who have no independent life at all.

Good idea Oregon: A ban on anyone convicted of partner violence from buying guns.

A woman had a miscarriage. The pharmacist refused to provide her with abortion drugs because of his religious beliefs. Of course, it’s a miscarriage so he’s not saving the baby’s life — but despite the health risk to the woman, he wouldn’t “kill” the baby. I’m sure we’ll see more of this until we reach the same point Ireland was at for years.

A standard counter-feminist argument is that women don’t get the top jobs or good tech jobs or high-paying jobs or [insert similar item here] simply because they make different choices from men. And those choices are completely unaffected by social pressure or companies’ policies (much the same way Megan McArdle imagines poor people choose to be poor). Wired however, shows how tech recruiting sessions come off sexist which turns away women.

I hadn’t heard about this before, but the suffragette movement a century ago defended itself from police violence with jujitsu.

Another day, another non-Muslim terrorist.

Working with women can reduce gender stereotypes.

The Trump family, where a woman eats what the man tells her to.

Evangelical male supremacist Doug Wilson says that a man who has sex with a hundred women is like a “master key” whereas a woman with hundred lovers is just damaged goods like a broken log. But of course he’s not saying a man who sleeps around is better than a woman who sleeps around! Yeah, right.

Minnesota Republican Jason Lewis thinks it’s a bad thing we can’t call women sluts any more. People can and do, it’s just they’re more likely to get called out for it. Which for conservatives is the same as tyranny and thought policing.

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Sympathy for the devil’s moral complexity? Yeah, right

Several years ago, I wrote an And column in response to one Victoria Coren Mitchell saying we needed to be more nuanced about Roman Polanski raping a thirteen-year-old instead of reducing cases like this “to mindless categories of good and bad.” Because he’s a great filmmaker. He’s a Holocaust survivor. And doesn’t the victim have to accept some responsibility for letting Polanski get her alone?

I, on the other hand, have no problem with reducing “rape of 13 year old” to “bad.” And I don’t think that’s mindless at all. Polanski is a rapist. He raped a 13-year-old. There’s no nuance to that. Being a rapist is not the sum total of Polanski’s existence but it is him, just like racist lawyer Aaron Schlossberg owns his racist rants [edited for clarity]

Apparently my incisive reasoning didn’t convince pundit Lee Siegel (come on, he couldn’t possibly not have read my column right? Right?). In an NYT op-ed, he argues that, as Mitchell found with Polanski, we’re suffering a lack of nuance when we judge Harvey Weinstein, and when we judge people who try to explain him: “If, in a spirit of free intellectual and imaginative inquiry, you dared to suggest that a man who masturbated in front of a woman he barely knew without her consent might have been acting out, in an attitude of aggressive contempt, his own shame and emasculation — if you tried to understand his actions, without justifying them — you would be shouted down and vilified … Could it be that Mr. Weinstein, who reportedly had often been mocked for his appearance, wanted to dehumanize these women as well, while at the same time turning himself into a person who is watched and admired, like a person of beauty?”

As noted at the link, Siegel postures as a daring truth-bomber unafraid of being shouted down and vilified, when he’s actually writing in one of the country’s most prominent newspapers. Pretending he’s handing out mimeographed Free Harvey Weinstein fliers, then rushing off before the cops bust him is just bullshit (much like the daring thinkers of the intellectual dark web). That said, it’s possible Siegel will be villified, but I’m okay with that. Because he’s kind of a chump.

As noted at the link, feminists have been discussing what drives men to rape and harass for decades. Nobody’s villifying them for bringing it up (plenty of people villify them for not slut-shaming rape victims). But their explanations are considerably less elaborate than Siegel’s: rape involves power, lust, patriarchy, male ego. Portraying Weinstein as wanting to be admired or acting out “his own shame and emasculation” seems almost like a plea for sympathy. Like Mitchell. Or like Camille Paglia portraying Bill Cosby as compensating for an emasculating wife. Maybe that’s unfair to Siegel, but he does seem very disturbed we’re more interested in punishing Weinstein than understanding him. Dude, if he did what he’s accused of, punishment is entirely appropriate. Understanding is optional. It doesn’t matter if he’s been mocked or humiliated or feels emasculated, if the accusations are true (and I’m inclined to believe them), he raped and abused a whole bunch of women and tried to destroy their careers if they resisted.

As with Polanski, I don’t think classifying Weinstein as “bad” indicates a lack of moral complexity on my part. Nor do I think we need more sympathy for incels. You know, the guys who think 10-year-old girls deserve to die?


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Unsafe in any station

The only security which we can have that men will be honest, is to make it their interest to be honest; and the best defence which we can have against their being knaves, is to make it terrible to them to be knaves. As there are many men wicked in some stations, who would be innocent in others; the best way is to make wickedness unsafe in any station.”—Cato’s letter

This is one of the great challenges of imposing the rule of law: holding powerful people accountable. As a Vox article pointed out this week, it’s possible Trump won’t pay any penalty for colluding with Russia to rig the election. President Ford pardoned Nixon’s crimes. Obama refused to prosecute American torturers. Like the song says, if you’re rich you can buy immunity, if you’re poor better write your eulogy.

It’s not just the government of course. Fox News spent millions ensuring Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly were safe in their station. Churches cover up for religious leaders. Michigan University covered up allegations against gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. The most anyone usually suffers is to lose their job; massive falls such as Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein are rare.

And it’s not just sex. The GOP has denounced a lot of the neo-Nazis crawling out of the woodwork to run on their ticket, but it’s staying mum about veteran legislator Steve King’s white supremacist tweeting.

This isn’t new. In the Skinner case that ended the eugenics movement (though lots of states continued sterilizing people they didn’t want reproducing), what led the Supreme Court to rule against Oklahoma was that the mandatory sterilization of criminals exempted the kind of white-collar crime the state legislature or its poker buddies might be found doing (bribery, corruption). It was for the lower classes, not them.

It’s one reason why law is important: it doesn’t completely stop people breaking it, but it does draw a line in the sand they have to cross. Alan Greenspan actively pushed for loosening controls on banks, which contributed to the disastrous financial meltdown of a decade ago. In the aftermath, Greenspan said it had never occurred to him that the banks would make such terrible decisions if they weren’t constrained.

But of course, if people don’t prosecute those who break the law, the law has its limits. And there’s lots of reasons not to go after powerful people: they have money, influence, voters won’t like it.

What do we do to make them more accountable? And to make breaking the law something that will actually cost them? Trump is an extreme example, but he’s not unique.

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Trump’s Supreme Court pick, and other political links

Trump’s new Supreme Court pick, Andrew Kvanagh, is, of course, very antiabortion (though a lot of rightwingers are insisting that he’s a moderate), but he also believes that Internet providers should be able to block any website or service they choose because free speech! Which makes as much sense as saying phone companies should be able to block phone calls from people they don’t want you to talk to. More generally, and unsurprisingly, he’s a firm believer that regulation is bad unless it regulates people, not corporations (“he and the broader conservative legal movement have the very scrutable idea that the Constitution should be read primarily as a property owners’ charter, whose purpose is to stymie economic regulation.”). It’s a bad addition to an already anti-democracy court. Oh, Kavanagh also believes that a sitting president is immune from civil lawsuits and criminal charges.

Several people who know Kavanagh say he’s really a wonderful person and very nice to the people around him. It’s the people who aren’t around him who will get a raw deal.

Anti-semitic incidents surged 60 percent in 2017.

The winner of one of the NC Republican primaries is Confederate loving, openly white supremacist Russell Walker, who thinks Jews are creatures of Satan.

Removing Confederate monuments is the work of Antichrist! But the real Confederates are Democrats, because they discriminate against white women.

Would you believe the religious right are supporting a conservative brothel owner in a Nevada election? I’m sure you would.

Mike Huckabee insists Red Hen refusing his daughter service is wrong — nothing like good Christians refusing gays. I’m sure that won’t surprise you either. Let us remember that Huckabee, the pious moralist, hand-waves child molestation away when it’s politically convenient to do so.

Rep. Steve King continues Tweeting racism. A San Bernadino prosecutor tweets that someone should have shot Maxine Waters by now. Daria Shine, the wife of the new White House communications director tweets racism. But Erick Erickson insists just because someone tweets racist things, we shouldn’t judge them.

Being a violent white supremacist is not a bar to getting a security clearance.

When Rep. Jim Jordan was a wrestling coach, some of his students say, he turned a blind eye to the team doctor’s sexual misconduct. Unsurprisingly, his party insists he’s a wonderful guy who couldn’t have done anything wrong. No surprise Rep. Matt Gaetz is a Jordan defender, given he’s also a devoted Trump toady.

According to an EPA official, now-departed Scott Pruitt would have his aides put his hotel stays on their credit cards, then not reimburse them. No wonder he and Trump got along so well, given Trump’s history of stiffing people.

The Obama administration supported a health resolution encouraging breast-feeding around the world. So Trump opposes it. He’s also adopting a pro-business, anti-environmental approach to managing the oceans.

A Catholic pundit struggles to make a case that the working class support Trump because he embodies family values (tossing off, in the process, that having your partner take out a restraining order against you is at the same level as having a child out of wedlock).

Trump really does lie whenever his lips move — or at least whenever he tweets.

Trump-loving pastor Jim Bakker is now pushing coffee on his show. He says when the end times come, it’ll be worth more than a car.

One of the ardent Trump supporters I know claimed Trump was the better choice because Clinton would get us into war. I’m sure he’s unfazed by the fact Trump wanted to invade Venezuela.

I’ve sometimes joked that with Trump’s election, Russia won the Cold War. What if it’s true and he’s a paid Russian asset?

To end on a bright note, the right is freaking out that left-winger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a Democratic primary. And alt.righters who advocate strict controls on immigration are horrified other nations are barring them.

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Civility and moderation

Ever since the Red Hen restaurant told Sarah Huckabee Saunders to leave the premises, the media (as noted at the link) have been protesting that it’s outrageous! How can Democrats/liberals be so — so uncivil! How would they like it if Republicans played that game?

As multiple people have pointed out, Republicans play that game all the time, particularly the current party leader (but it’s hardly unique to him). Right-winger Bill Deagle, for example, says anyone who harasses him will die; it’s not front page news. Neither as No More Mr. Nice Blog points out, is the constant harassment of abortion providers and patients; the WaPo had an editorial that pretends that would be a new thing. Nor right-winger Liz Crokin claiming there’s a video of Hilary Clinton torturing children.

And it’s not just actual confrontation that grabs attention. Liberals refusing to date conservatives is hardly uncivil, but NBC News still devoted a column on its website to how awful it is.  Trump supporter Alan Dershowitz has been the subject of several news stories because people in his Martha’s Vineyard neighborhood burned his house — oh, wait, wrong, they just don’t invite him to parties. Similarly, I remember a few years ago, there was a profile of New Jersey governor Chris Christie which mentioned how much he loves Bruce Springsteen and how it hurts him that Springsteen doesn’t want to meet with him because of politics.

I’m inclined to agree with NMMNB and others that there’s a double standard. The media may not like Trump’s meanness, but they aren’t shocked the same way. And some of them are actually fine with it; a while back Chris Cillizza had a column admiring Trump’s habit of slapping nicknames on people (e.g., “Pocahontas” for Elizabeth Warren) because that dude really knows how to target his enemies’ weak spots!

Why the double standard? It may be, as Jonathan Chait suggests, that having Republicans in the White House for most of the past 50 years tilts the media Republican. Similarly, in a country where white male rule has been the norm, white men lashing back as they become a minority may be seen as more acceptable than when the lower orders do it (as Ta-Nehisi Coates says, white male grievance is always taken seriously). Or as Echidne suggests, it’s that Democrats are supposed to be nurturing and kind, Republicans are the strict father-figures. Similarly, I wonder if that’s liberals prize tolerance and respect as values while conservatives don’t.

It reminds me a little about how the media are always, always warning Democrats not to be too liberal. The linked article contrasts “centrist pragmatic” Democrats with the wild-eyed extremists who focus on divisive issues instead of jobs and the economy. The extremists aren’t realistic, they’re just passively counting on a blue wave in November to get them elected by not being Trump! A NYT column linked in the article argues the centrists have the right ideas, in contrast to the newly elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with her crazy talk about abolishing ICE (which actually has surprising support for a fairly new proposal).

It’s quite possible the centrists are right about what sells in their districts; I don’t have the expertise to judge. I’m not so sure it follows that centrism is the way to go everywhere or everywhere outside extremely liberal areas. It’s hard to see how a call to abolish ICE or provide better health insurance constitutes not actively competing for votes. Or that we shouldn’t focus on divisive issues; abortion, immigration, and equality before the law are all divisive and those are important to a lot of people in the base.

My point is, of course, that I don’t see anywhere near as much coverage arguing that Republicans shouldn’t be divisive. Just like they’re not denounced as much by the mainstream media for engaging in identity politics. I’ve seen articles over the years demanding Democrats (Obama, for instance) refuse to do what voters want to prove he’s his own man. I don’t see articles demanding Republicans should refuse the religious right or the anti-gay hatemongers to prove they’re independent. It’s what they do.

As others have pointed out, this may be a problem with the media this fall, and in 2020; whoever the Democrats pick will be too liberal. Whatever criticism they offer will be too uncivil. But I don’t think tacking to the center and being nice is the answer.

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