Monday, February 25, 2019

Why I'll stop trying to quit all social media and that's a good thing

My latest attempt at a long social media break has failed, but I don't mind because I learned something this time, perhaps because I read Jaron Lanier's Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now and had to think about why I wasn't convinced.

My current answer: Social media is part of modern society. For most of us, it's better to work to become good citizens than hermits. I expect I'll still take the occasional day or week off as the electronic version of a camping trip, but I'll quit trying to quit.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Are Jews white? If you're a neoliberal identitarian, the answer is yes, so don't vote for Bernie Sanders

I am fascinated by young Jews who insist they're not white—until the 1980s, no one questioned the whiteness of European Jews except for a few antisemites. Most American antisemites hated Jews for the same reason they hated Catholics—they weren't Protestants.

But now the identity crowd wants someone with more conservative politics than Bernie Sanders. Since they can't admit that, their #1 attack is that he's another old white man.

But even if you think Jews are white, electing Sanders would be a blow for diversity. We've had a black President and a Catholic President, but we've never had a Jewish President.

The real Jussie Smollett story: Any pundit who believed him should be canceled

I somehow deleted the original, longer (and funnier, honest!) version of this post—whether Blogger or I goofed, I dunno. (Okay, I would bet on me.)

But the title of this post may be all that's needed. The Jussie Smollett story was plausible when it consisted of an anonymous hate letter. When the second part was added on the 29th, the story stank: you had to believe MAGA fans of Empire stalked Jussie Smollett to hang a rope around his neck and pour bleach on him. That's an awful lot of effort for someone as politically irrelevant as Smollett.

That's why I made this post on Facebook and Twitter on the 30th:
There’s a news story that doesn’t smell right. I’m not going to name it because it may turn out I’m wrong, but in case my instinct is right, I’m noting it now.

Don’t bother asking which story.

Yes, this does mean I can claim to be right later on about anything I please. :)
The only thing that surprises me now is that the truth came out because Smollett was so incompetent—not every hoax hate crime is exposed, just as not every actual hate crime is confirmed.

If anyone wants to make a list of pundits who don't think critically, Xeni Jardin has a couple of posts at BoingBoing expressing her support for Smollett that include a lot of quotes from gullible (though well-meaning) people.

Don't "believe the victim". Investigate all accusations. Sometimes people are wrong and sometimes they lie.

About The Umbrella Academy and the difference between superhero teams of the 1960s and 1970s

I like The Umbrella Academy more than most superhero TV shows, but the lineup feels oddly like something from the 1970s: only two of the seven team members are women. (In the 1960s, superhero teams with five or more characters had one woman, in the 1970s, they had two.) Making things even more traditional, the women in the Umbrella Academy don't have physical powers like strength or athleticism. I could point out more examples of benign sexism in the first season, but I don't want to give any spoilers.

And the old school approach is only a quibble. All the actors are very good, and there are ways the writers can do better by the women in the next season, so I'll plan to catch it.

Four stars out of five.

PS. Wondering if I was right about when superhero teams started having (shock!) *two* female members, I googled. It looks like the Justice League added a second woman in 1969 when Black Canary joined, the Teen Titans added a second girl in 1970 when Lilith joined, and the Avengers added a second woman in 1973 when Black Widow joined. Now, for the most hardcore fanboys out there, I will note that the Black Widow was the third female member of the team, but the Scarlet Witch did not join until the Wasp quit, so the 1960s status quo of one chick per team was not broken until the Black Widow became a member.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Why the black bourgeoisie loves race reductionism, plus reading Margo Jefferson’s Negroland

The black bourgeoisie loves race reductionism because it makes them heroes. They hate adding class to the analysis because that make them part of the problem.

This bit from Margo Jefferson’s Negroland about the black elite before the Civil War is fundamentally true today:
What did it mean to be a privileged free Negro?
...Free in the North to agitate against slavery and for voting rights while excluding Negroes with fewer accomplishments from your social circles.
Free in the South to lobby for your fluctuating rights while deeming it wise to ignore the claims of poorer, darker free Negroes.
Free to labor for privilege in the hopes that your children would be entitled to it.
I’ve just started the book, but I’m very impressed with it, both for Jefferson’s observations and her quotes. She notes that W.E.B. DuBois described the black bourgeoisie as “...a group of selfish, self-indulgent, well-to-do men whose basic interest in solving the Negro problem was personal; personal freedom and use of the world” with no “arousing care as to what became of the mass of American Negroes.”

Recommended: Cedric Johnson’s Black Political Life and the Blue Lives Matter Presidency

Black Political Life and the Blue Lives Matter Presidency is the sequel to “The Panthers Can’t Save Us Now”. It's filled with smart observations for people who care about race and class. Here are a few:

“Many left activists and academics continue to abide the notion of black exceptionalism, that there is something unique and incommensurable about the experiences of blacks that prohibits any substantive discussion of class position and interests whenever the black population is concerned.”

“the myth that Trump rode into office on a wave of resurgent white supremacy has only entrenched liberal anti-racist posturing, over-generalizations about and demonization of white workers, and a prevailing sense that popular left politics are not only out of reach, but not even worth pursuing.”

“Of the ten cities with the highest per capita fatal police shootings of civilians, only one approaches a majority-black population — Baton Rouge (50.4 percent black), followed closely by St. Louis (49.2 percent) with Las Vegas trailing well behind (11.1 percent). Of the remaining cities, the black population constituted less than 3 percent: Kingman, Arizona (.04 percent black); Las Cruces, New Mexico (2.4 percent); Billings, Montana (.08 percent); Pueblo, Colorado (2.4 percent); Rapid City, South Dakota (1.1 percent); Westminster, Colorado (1.23 percent); and Casper, Wyoming (1 percent). Black Lives Matter protests have galvanized opposition to police abuse, but clearly, there are neighborhoods and communities in the US hinterlands that some on the Left have written off, that endure over-policing, violence, and precarity but fall out of the race-centric, metropolitan framing of these problems favored by activists and academics.”

Monday, February 18, 2019

The woman who invented micro aggressions was a plagiarist who may have committed a hoax hate crime

Madonna G. Constantine, an academic who promoted the idea of micro aggressions, was fired by Columbia University in 2008 for plagiarism. While she was being investigated, a noose was found outside her office. The perpetrator was never found, but many people (including me) find this detail suspicious:
After the October incident, cops were rebuffed – by Constantine herself – in their efforts to catch the person behind the alleged hate crime.

The professor was one of several faculty members who objected to the idea of posting surveillance cameras in her hallway, according to sources familiar with the campus investigation.

'Microaggression' Is the New Racism on Campus

Hanging Nooses: Hate or Hoax Upsurge

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Review: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now is 3/4 Very Good

Will Shetterly's Reviews > Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now

Things I did not share on social media on Feb. 15

Three rules for readers:
  1. Read charitably.
  2. Read skeptically.
  3. Read widely.
  4. Read deeply.
Yes, the first two and the second two are at odds with each other. That's why they're on the list.


A woman insisted mass shooters do not suffer from mental health issues but from white male entitlement syndrome. How that explains Brenda Ann Spencer or John Allen Muhammad, she did not say. #CannotMakeThisUp


Dear socialists, capitalists treat some people as subhuman. Don't do the same thing.


The question for modern journalism is who it is supposed to serve, and the unintended consequence of commercial journalism is it serves the publisher, not the public, so we continue to live in the world of 'if it bleeds, it leads.' Why it bleeds stays irrelevant.


Good manners are weapons and the left needs to learn how to wield them.


People who talk about "the wrong side of history" are on the wrong side of originality.


Romantic love: Platonic love with benefits.


I'm beginning to think it might not be possible to read all of Facebook.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Things I did not share on social media on Feb. 14


Life's too short to give negative reviews. If you must give bad reviews, do them after you're reviewed everything that's good.

We should not talk about gun violence in America when there's been a recent major incident, or when it's old news, or when it's a day that ends with "day".

People who make straw man arguments are not malicious. We argue with what we hear. They only hear two possibilities, their own and the straw man's.

Liberals love left-identitarianism because it lets them feel guilty about their past instead of their present. #UnderstandingTaNehisiCoates

"Contrarian" is only an insult to conformists.

You learn more from your opponents than from your echo chamber.


This Is How AIPAC Really Works:
Has anyone ever seen so many members of Congress, of both parties, running to the microphones and sending out press releases to denounce one first-termer for criticizing the power of… a lobby?

By its own admission, AIPAC has 100,000 members out of an American Jewish population of about 6 million. Of that number, most are Jewish but, as it proudly proclaims, many are evangelical (and other) Christians.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Israel and Palestine FAQ that Zionists don't want you to see

Who attacked first in 1948?

“Menahem Begin, the Leader of the Irgun, tells how ‘in Jerusalem, as elsewhere, we were the first to pass from the defensive to the offensive...Arabs began to flee in terror...Hagana was carrying out successful attacks on other fronts, while all the Jewish forces proceeded to advance through Haifa like a knife through butter’...The Israelis now allege that the Palestine war began with the entry of the Arab armies into Palestine after 15 May 1948. But that was the second phase of the war; they overlook the massacres, expulsions and dispossessions which took place prior to that date and which necessitated Arab states’ intervention.” Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest

Who attacked first in 1967?

“The former Commander of the Air Force, General Ezer Weitzman, regarded as a hawk, stated that there was ‘no threat of destruction’ but that the attack on Egypt, Jordan and Syria was nevertheless justified so that Israel could ‘exist according the scale, spirit, and quality she now embodies.’ ... Menahem Begin had the following remarks to make: ‘In June 1967, we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.’“ Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle

“I do not think Nasser wanted war. The two divisions he sent to The Sinai would not have been sufficient to launch an offensive war. He knew it and we knew it.” Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s Chief of Staff in 1967, in Le Monde, 2/28/68

Who is responsible for the 1929 Palestine riots?

On August 17, a Jew named Avrahim Mizrachi was stabbed in a fight with neighbors. He died a few days later. Over the next four days, the Jerusalem police reported 12 attacks by Jews on Arabs and seven attacks by Arabs on Jews. On the morning of the 23rd, several Arabs were killed in Jerusalem's Mea She'arim neighborhood. Soon after that, violence erupted throughout Palestine with Jews killing Arabs and Arabs killing Jews. During the Hebron Massacre, a mob killed 63 Jews while over 400 were saved by local Arab families. The riots ended with almost equal numbers of people killed on each side, 133 Jews and 116 Muslims.

For more: 1929 Palestine riots and the Hebron Massacre

Didn’t Zionists legally buy their land?

“In 1948, at the moment that Israel declared itself a state, it legally owned a little more than 6 percent of the land of Palestine...After 1940, when the mandatory authority restricted Jewish land ownership to specific zones inside Palestine, there continued to be illegal buying (and selling) within the 65 percent of the total area restricted to Arabs.

Thus when the partition plan was announced in 1947 it included land held illegally by Jews, which was incorporated as a fait accompli inside the borders of the Jewish state. And after Israel announced its statehood, an impressive series of laws legally assimilated huge tracts of Arab land (whose proprietors had become refugees, and were pronounced ‘absentee landlords’ in order to expropriate their lands and prevent their return under any circumstances).” Edward Said, The Question of Palestine

Was the partition plan fair?

“Arab rejection was...based on the fact that, while the population of the Jewish state was to be [only half] Jewish with the Jews owning less than 10% of the Jewish state land area, the Jews were to be established as the ruling body — a settlement which no self-respecting people would accept without protest, to say the least...The action of the United Nations conflicted with the basic principles for which the world organization was established, namely, to uphold the right of all peoples to self-determination. By denying the Palestine Arabs, who formed the two-thirds majority of the country, the right to decide for themselves, the United Nations had violated its own charter.” Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest

When did Zionists begin seizing more land than the UN plan allowed?

“Before the end of the mandate and, therefore before any possible intervention by Arab states, the Jews, taking advantage of their superior military preparation and organization, had occupied...most of the Arab cities in Palestine before May 15, 1948. Tiberias was occupied on April 19, 1948, Haifa on April 22, Jaffa on April 28, the Arab quarters in the New City of Jerusalem on April 30, Beisan on May 8, Safad on May 10 and Acre on May 14, 1948...In contrast, the Palestine Arabs did not seize any of the territories reserved for the Jewish state under the partition resolution.” Henry Cattan, Palestine, The Arabs and Israel

How many massacres were committed by Zionists in 1948?

“For the entire day of April 9, 1948, Irgun and LEHI soldiers carried out the slaughter in a cold and premeditated fashion...The attackers ‘lined men, women and children up against the walls and shot them,’...The ruthlessness of the attack on Deir Yassin shocked Jewish and world opinion alike, drove fear and panic into the Arab population, and led to the flight of unarmed civilians from their homes all over the country.” Simha Flapan, The Birth of Israel

“...according to the former director of the Israeli army archives, ‘in almost every village occupied by us during the War of Independence, acts were committed which are defined as war crimes, such as murders, massacres, and rapes’...Uri Milstein, the authoritative Israeli military historian of the 1948 war, goes one step further, maintaining that ‘every skirmish ended in a massacre of Arabs.’” Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

Is Israel an apartheid state?

"I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government." —Bishop Desmond Tutu


The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict

NY Times Op-Ed article written by prominent American Jews (including Albert Einstein) critical of Menahem Begin's visit to the States, Dec. 2, 1948

Iran Didn't Actually Threaten to Wipe Israel Off the Map

Israel-Gaza conflict: The secret report that helps Israelis to hide facts
Israeli spokesmen have their work cut out explaining how they have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, compared with just three civilians killed in Israel by Hamas rocket and mortar fire. But on television and radio and in newspapers, Israeli government spokesmen such as Mark Regev appear slicker and less aggressive than their predecessors, who were often visibly indifferent to how many Palestinians were killed.

There is a reason for this enhancement of the PR skills of Israeli spokesmen. Going by what they say, the playbook they are using is a professional, well-researched and confidential study on how to influence the media and public opinion in America and Europe. Written by the expert Republican pollster and political strategist Dr Frank Luntz, the study was commissioned five years ago by a group called The Israel Project, with offices in the US and Israel, for use by those "who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel".
The Department of Corrections:'Ben-Hur', the LA Times & A Place Called Palestine
Despite the claim that "the Romans didn't rename Judea as 'Palestina' until a hundred years after the death of Jesus," contemporaries of Jesus also routinely referred to Palestine as, well, Palestine. For instance, in the first decade of the 1st Century CE, the Roman poet Ovid mentioned Palestine in both his famed mythological poem Metamorphoses and his erotic elegy The Art of Love. He also wrote of "the waters of Palestine" in his calendrical poem Fasti. Around the same time, another Latin poet Tibullus wrote of "the crowded cities of Palestine" in a section called "Messalla’s Triumph" in his poem Delia.


On depression, cancel culture, and why I’m taking a month off from Facebook and Twitter

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." —attributed to Cardinal Richelieu

I was canceled ten years ago. This isn’t the anniversary quite yet—it’s in March. The occasion was a huge flamefest in the science fiction community called Racefail 09, which I think of as RaceReductionistFail—the participants hated mentioning class so much that one of them made it a square in a bingo card for identifying racists.

I tried to sell a book after I was canceled, but even though I’d recently been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award, I had no luck. One young editor was so excited about it and so sure there’d be no problem that she told my agent she wanted to buy it, but then a higher-up vetoed her. I’ve been fighting depression ever since and have pretty much lost my interest in the field I had loved. Depression is common after mobbing or canceling or whatever you want to call it. So are suicidal thoughts. And so is suicide. One of the targets of cancel culture, Mark Fisher, killed himself. Another, Freddie deBoer, fled social media to stay sane. I’m going to follow his example for a month.

What Fisher, deBoer, and I have in common is a class-first approach to understanding privilege under neoliberal capitalism. Another class-first socialist, Adolph Reed, said this:
I’ve been struck by the level of visceral and vitriolic anti-Marxism I’ve seen from this strain of defenders of antiracism as a politics. It’s not clear to me what drives it because it takes the form of snide dismissals than direct arguments. Moreover, the dismissals typically include empty acknowledgment that “of course we should oppose capitalism,” whatever that might mean. In any event, the tenor of this anti-Marxism is reminiscent of those right-wing discourses, many of which masqueraded as liberal, in which only invoking the word “Marxism” was sufficient to dismiss an opposing argument or position. ... This sort of thing only deepens my suspicions about antiracism’s status within the comfort zone of neoliberalism’s discourses of “reform.” More to the point, I suspect as well that this vitriol toward radicalism is rooted partly in the conviction that a left politics based on class analysis and one focused on racial injustice are Manichean alternatives.
Reed is right. Identitarians on the right and left realize universalist politics are existential threats. They have to do everything they can do destroy heretics, and therefore left identitarians have abandoned traditional leftist values like free speech. They think they wield Satan's tools in God's service and fail to see that when they do, Satan laughs. They often quote Audre Lorde's "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house" without noticing that censorship and identitarianism are two of the master's favorite tools.

If I could go back to 2003, I would tell myself to keep my blog and stay away from LiveJournal, Facebook, and Twitter. Blogs are places to think. Social media are places to react.

Freddie deBoer has been doing stealth blog posts—-they appear and disappear quickly. This bit from today’s speaks to me:
As someone who went from frequent (to the point of pathological) engagement on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to none quite suddenly, this plays out in very odd ways. I am not a news-avoiding monk; I certainly pick up, in time, on what’s going on in national news. But I find it deeply disorienting to speak with people who are compulsively online, as they refer to dynamics and debates that appear totally obscure and unimportant. My generic response to “what’s your opinion on X?” is “…what?” And it’s not merely that people are steeped in this culture, but that they appear unaware that anyone isn’t a part of it. That would be disturbing in general; when it comes to journalists, I find it truly troubling.
While I agree it’s wrong to think of life offline as “the real world”, life online is only the real world in the same way academia or prison or the wealthy 1% is the real world: those who primarily live online inhabit a tiny, isolating piece of the real world. It’s too easy for people to forget echo chambers may comfort and enrage,  but they cannot provide the truths you do not know you need.

So I’m stepping away from Facebook and Twitter for a month. I’ll still use them to share blog posts and news that’s either personal or professional, but I’ll look for my distractions elsewhere, and what I have to say, I'll say here.

P.S. I'm reading this now: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier