• “Trump flouts the epistemological basis of contemporary political discourse…”

    The strange alliance that has emerged between even Trump-supporting Republican elites and a critical press corps has been nurtured by Trump’s bizarre conspiracy theories and his baldfaced lies, which offend and unnerve both sides.

    “The things Trump says are demonstrably false in a way that’s abnormal for politicians,” says the Atlantic’s James Fallows, who wrote the book Why Americans Hate the Media. “When he says he got a letter from the NFL on the debates and then the NFL says, ‘No, he didn’t,’ it emboldens the media to treat him in a different way.”

    Politicians are not fully truthful. Everyone knows that. But they make a basic effort at being, as Stephen Colbert put it, truthy. The statistics they cite are usually in the neighborhood of correct. The falsehoods they offer are crafted through the careful omission of fact rather than the inclusion of falsehood. They may say things journalists know are wrong — climate change denial is a constant among Republican officeholders — but they protect themselves by wrapping their arguments in well-constructed controversy or appealing to hand-selected experts.

    This is part of how political reporting operates. Politicians are allowed to be wrong, but they can’t lie. Trump just lies.

    Press critic Jay Rosen has an interesting perspective on this. What Trump is doing, he says, is journalism in reverse. “The birth certificate is a good example,” he says. “When you take a fact verified as fully as it can be in journalism, like Obama was born in the United States, and you say it’s not true, it’s a lie, energy is released by that. You can use that energy to power a campaign. But that offends journalism because it reverses it. It takes something that’s been nailed down and introduces doubt about it to release controversy and chaos.”

    Trump flouts the epistemological basis of contemporary political discourse — his taste for conspiracy theories, his unwillingness to back off from clear falsehoods, and the seemingly effortless and needless nature of his lying (what purpose did saying he had received a letter from the NFL complaining about the debate schedule even serve?) have opened a yawning gap between the candidate and the people who cover him.

    Ezra Klein, “The media vs. Donald Trump: why the press feels so free to criticize the Republican nominee”, Vox (16 August 2016) [http://www.vox.com/2016/8/16/12484644/media-donald-trump]


  • “’Racism’ spent the first half of the 20th century in competition with an­other word, ‘racialism’, though neither featured prominently in our national conversation”

    The first cited use of “racism” in The Oxford English Dictionary comes from 1902, during the well-intentioned Lake Mohonk Conference of Friends of the Indian. There, a white man, Richard Henry Pratt, criticized government policy toward Native Americans. “Segregating any class or race of people apart from the rest of the people kills the progress of the segregated people or makes their growth very slow,” he said. “Association of races and classes is necessary to destroy racism and classism.” Pratt was what we might call “progressive” for his time; his version of destroying racism involved forcibly assimilating Native Americans into white culture. (As he put it, “Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.”) Both of these options — segregation by force or assimilation by force — had disastrous effects for Native Americans. But for Pratt, racism was a matter of policy, not malice.

    “Racism” spent the first half of the 20th century in competition with an­other word, “racialism,” though neither featured prominently in our national conversation. Then came the civil rights era, when the word took on for many a convenient new meaning, one that had more to do with the human heart than with practices like redlining, gerrymandering or voter intimidation. In 1964, Gov. George Wallace of Alabama — who just a year earlier promised “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” — explained the clear difference, in his mind, between a racist and a segregationist: “A racist is one who despises someone because of his color, and an Alabama segregationist is one who conscientiously believes that it is in the best interest of the Negro and white to have a separate educational and social order.”

    Soon, nearly everyone could agree that racism was the evil work of people with hate in their hearts — bigots. This was a convenient thing for white Americans to believe. Racism, they could say, was the work of racists. And wherever you looked, there were no racists: only good men like Wallace, minding the welfare of their black fellow citizens, or the segregationist South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, defending states’ rights. Racism definitely existed, at some point — no one was out there denying that slavery had happened — but its residue had settled only in the hearts of the most unsavory individuals. Society as a whole didn’t need reform for the sins of a few.

    Greg Howard, “Bias Charge”, The New York Times Magazine (21 August 2016), 12.


  • “My mother believes that injustice is the normal, unchangeable state of things”

    My mother believes that injustice is the normal, unchangeable state of things. My mother believes trust is foolishness. She thinks it is not only naïve to live as if justice were an attainable ideal; it is self-destructive. My mother believes they will kill you if they can.

    If equal human dignity for all groups is impossible, then my mother is right: Striving for it as an ideal is not only naïve, it is dangerous for our families. While we are striving, there will be violations, which we will then overlook at our peril. And yet, for all we know, equal human dignity is possible. And so taking my mother’s view of life will most likely diminish this possibility.

    Jason Stanley, “My Parents’ Mixed Messages on the Holocaust”, The New York Times (21 August 2016), SR9.


  • “…mix of youthful safety and adult immaturity may be a feature of life in a society increasingly shaped by the internet’s virtual realities”

    Since the 1990s, we’ve seen two broad social changes that few observers would have expected to happen together.

    First, youth culture has become less violent, less promiscuous and more responsible. American childhood is safer than ever before. Teenagers drink and smoke less than previous generations. The millennial generation has fewer sexual partners than its parents, and the teen birthrate has traced a two-decade decline. Violent crime — a young person’s temptation — fell for 25 years before the recent post-Ferguson homicide spike. Young people are half as likely to have been in a fight than a generation ago. Teen suicides, binge drinking, hard drug use — all are down.

    But over the same period, adulthood has become less responsible, less obviously adult. For the first time in over a century, more 20-somethings live with their parents than in any other arrangement. The marriage rate is way down, and despite a high out-of-wedlock birthrate American fertility just hit an all-time low. More and more prime-age workers are dropping out of the work force — men especially, and younger men more so than older men, though female work force participation has dipped as well.

    You can tell different stories that synthesize these trends: strictly economic ones about the impact of the Great Recession, critical ones about the infantilizing effects of helicopter parenting, upbeat ones about how young people are forging new life paths.

    But I want to advance a technology-driven hypothesis: This mix of youthful safety and adult immaturity may be a feature of life in a society increasingly shaped by the internet’s virtual realities.

    Ross Douthat, “The Virtues of Reality”, The New York Times (21 August 2016), SR11.


  • “…the national press is undoubtedly cosmopolitan in its outlook…”

    I have worked in a number of newsrooms, and I know writers and editors in many, many more. There’s no mainstream newsroom I know of that is uncompromising in its advocacy for single-payer health care, or that has launched a longtime crusade for more foreign aid. If anything, the press tilts toward deficit hawkery in its economics and a (deserved) skepticism of governmental competence and honesty in its instincts.

    But the national press is undoubtedly cosmopolitan in its outlook — it is based in New York and Washington and Los Angeles, and it prizes diversity, tolerance, pluralism. Within newsrooms, these ideas aren’t seen as political opinions but as fundamental values. There is no “other side” worth reporting when it comes to racial equality, no argument that needs to be respected when it comes to religious intolerance or anti-LGBTQ bigotry.

    More than Trump’s campaign is conservative, it is anti-cosmopolitan. Trump’s comments on Mexicans, on Muslims, his reaction to the Khans and to Megyn Kelly, his jingoism and instinctual mistrust of immigrants — all of this amounts to an anti-cosmopolitan ideology that really does run him smack into a deep-seated bias in America’s urban newsrooms.

    Ezra Klein, “The media vs. Donald Trump: why the press feels so free to criticize the Republican nominee”, Vox (16 August 2016) [http://www.vox.com/2016/8/16/12484644/media-donald-trump]


  • “The Anglo-culture invasion exemplified by the Beatles U.S. tour in 1964 could also be felt in American brewing”

    The Anglo-culture invasion exemplified by the Beatles U.S. tour in 1964 could also be felt in American brewing. Culture from abroad, appreciated by a willing American palate was then manipulated into a whole new identity. The new breweries developing in the 1960s through the 1980s may not have been interested in Britpop or Mini Coopers, but they revived a long tradition of English ale production. Anchor Brewing did so in grand fashion with the development of the hoppy and bitter Liberty Ale, and their dark and malty Anchor Porter. New Albion Brewing took pride in using a legendary English ship as the symbol of their traditional English ales. Sierra Nevada Brewing embodied both the move to British styles of beer and the DIY spirit of counterculture of California. Before constructing their brewery from recycled and repurposed equipment, current CEO and founder Ken Grossman operated a small farm with his wife Katie. Their pursuits in animal husbandry and cooperative farming with fellow Chico residents was in the spirit of what Brand and his Catalog supported. Further, the first Sierra Nevada recipes brewed for sale were an English styled stout and pale ale, albeit with an American interpretation. While there is no evidence that Grossman or other prominent California brewers used the Whole Earth Catalog, the spirit of the era gave brewers faith enough to pursue their passion into a business.

    Eric Ortega, “The Golden State of Brewing; California’s Economic and Cultural Influence in the American Brewing Industry” (Master’s thesis, California State University, Fullerton, 2015), 81-82.


  • “…worryingly, the study of trauma has both a dubious intellectual history and an abysmal track record…”

    The murky science of risk assessment relies on attempts to quantify “trauma” and “adversity,” which, on the one hand, are meaningful clinical concepts but, on the other hand, are proxy terms for poverty. (And, worryingly, the study of trauma has both a dubious intellectual history and an abysmal track record, not least because of its role in the sexual-abuse scandals of the eighties and the recovered-memory travesty of the nineties.)

    Jill Lepore, “Baby Doe”, The New Yorker (1 February 2016), 55.


  • “I am only suggesting the lack of value in many value judgments, when these emerge from an acquaintance merely with excerpt instead of with the intent, and the nuances, of a literature”

    Rabbinists have sometimes assumed that a gospel pericope was lifted bodily from the Gemara. Elsewhere, I have expressed the opinion that rabbinic scholars have assumed that a mastery of the Talmud confers automatic mastery of the gospels.

    I would state here that NT scholars devoid of rabbinic learning have been misled by Strack-Billerbeck into arrogating to themselves a competency they do not possess. Strack-Billerbeck confers upon a student untrained and inexperienced in rabbinic literature not competency but confusion. The list of indiscretions by NT scholars in rabbinics, or by rabbinic scholars in NT, would be a long one. I allude here to errors in scholarship and not to pseudo scholarship. By this latter I have in mind the distorted evaluation of rabbinic Judaism as merely dry and arid legalism – it is never dry or arid, but always dry and arid; or a judgment such as Friedlander’s that what is good in the Sermon on the Mount is borrowed from Jewish sources, and what isn’t, isn’t very good. I am not implying that scholars are without the right to make value judgments. I am only suggesting the lack of value in many value judgments, when these emerge from an acquaintance merely with excerpt instead of with the intent, and the nuances, of a literature.

    Samuel Sandmel, “Parallelomania”, Journal of Biblical Literature vol 81, No. 1 (March 1962), 9-10.


  • “The evolving legal definition of rape has always been a bellwether of changing attitudes to race and gender…”

    The evolving legal definition of rape has always been a bellwether of changing attitudes to race and gender, and the legitimacy of “survivor” signals a subtle but important shift in thinking about sexual violence. The historian Estelle B. Freedman has argued that the story of rape in America “consists in large part in tracking the changing narratives that define which women may charge which men with the crime of forceful, unwanted sex and whose accounts will be believed.” But, with a few exceptions, there have been few historical records of how victims of violence have named and understood their own experiences.

    Parul Sehgal, “Hero Worship”, The New York Times Magazine (8 May 2016), 14.


  • “…these two clusters of values entail different conceptions of victims”

    …these two clusters of values entail different conceptions of victims. Proponents of individualizing values tend to see a dyad of victim and perpetrator (a victim is hurt, a perpetrator does the hurting). Proponents of binding values, however, may see behaviors as immoral even when there is no obvious victim — for example, the “impure” act of premarital sex or the “disloyal” act of flag burning — and may even feel that doing the right thing sometimes requires hurting others (as with honor killings, to pick an extreme example). So we hypothesized that support for binding values would correlate with a greater tendency to blame victims.

    We conducted several studies, involving 994 research participants. First we examined how their moral values related to their tendency to stigmatize victims versus to see victims as injured. We provided minimal descriptions of victims of various crimes — rape and molestation, stabbing and strangling — and asked the participants how much they considered the victims as “injured” or “contaminated.”

    While we expected that all participants would be more likely to view sexual-crime victims than non-sexual-crime victims as contaminated (which is indeed what we found), we also found, surprisingly, that the more strongly people endorsed binding values, the more strongly they considered any victim to be contaminated — regardless of the nature of the crime.

    Furthermore, the more people saw a victim as contaminated, the less they saw that victim as injured. Throughout, we controlled for other variables and found that it was moral values — binding values, in particular — and not political orientation, gender or religiosity that determined the results.

    Laura Niemi and Liane Young, “Who Blames the Victim?” The New York Times (26 June 2016), SR8.