41 comments

  1. Well, I don’t know what country Spencer Case is living in, but it isn’t the America I live in. The notion that social justice warriors are going to “sweep” the Democratic Party, let alone American culture as a whole, is pure fantasy.

    The working classes find them unappealing – and that’s across all ethnicities. Hispanics and African Americans especially fell uncomfortable with gay rights, for instance, no matter what you see on TV. Try discussing gay marriage reasonably with ‘da boyz in the hood’ – it took three decades to persuade Jamaican rappers that boasting about beating batty bwoys was bad for their record sales. And corporate money isn’t going to let this SJW ‘sweeping’ happen! Corporations will do what they always do – sell whatever people are buying, play the stock market, swap investments (and identities along with these), while gaming the political system to reap benefits.

    Spencer says he’s concerned with the rise of the far right – there is no such thing as the ‘alt-right,’ that’s a weasel term – we are talking about racist, anti-Semitic thugs and crypto-fascist Christian fundamentalists. And he thinks Mr. “Proud Boys stand by” Trump is somehow going to control them? Let them vent harmlessly perhaps? – yeah sure, I see that not happening anytime soon. Just to prove a point about a bunch of hyper-ventilating intellectuals who got a hand -few of people elected to congress? There are what, 4 freshmen representative members of the “Squad?” There are still 197 avowed Trumpist Republicans in the House. Most of the 2018 Democratic House class were moderates, some were even conservative. Wow, I’m really shaken by the prospect of a ‘woke’ revolution – not. Like him or not, with all his flaws, Joe Biden IS the Democratic Party – not simply because he won the nomination, but because he is what most Democrats are – liberal leaning moderates, as middle-of-the-road as a double yellow line.

    The first thing to learn about the media is that, since news went into for-profit mode in the ’80s, they just love shiny objects; they love conflict; they love noise. And unfortunately, apparently the hot-house of the academy means that many therein know the world only through the media. With the exception of the Fox fanatics, the rest of us are not so fooled.

    This is why the whole essentially academic debate over the ‘woke’ question has lost interest for me of recent months. Why is it college professors think the world of the professional office building is some microcosm of the ‘real’ world of non-academic working men and women? That was true when I was getting my doctorate, the ‘Revolution’ was just around the corner! Well, no it wasn’t – George Herbert Bush entered office the year I first encountered the ’80s version of ‘woke’ in the Literary Theory Wars. Jeez, you’d have thought reading certain books was the pathway to class liberation; instead we got Clintonomics, little more than a modified Reaganomics. And the Radical Feminists who took over that department after I graduated were themselves cowed into early retirement by the next wave of even more radical feminists they insisted on hiring. And I suppose that crowd is getting pressured into early retirement by the trans-activists they undoubtedly insisted on hiring; and that crowd – oh well, we can see how it goes. The academy has the silliest office politics of any profession; but the silliest aspect of it is that the participants think they’re engaging in real politics.

    I would require of every professor, after earning tenure, that they take a year off – not to write a book, but to work at Walmart’s. And to live off what they earn there. And to not communicate with anyone but their fellow employees and their customers.

    One big disappointment in this discussion is that Spencer, and to a lesser extent Robert, seem to be approaching this as ‘just another election.’ This is not just another election. There is nothing normal going on in American politics right now. Perhaps Spencer and Robert are just too young, or a bit too cynical or a bit too innocent to recognize what an aberration Trump is, and what it would mean to institutionalize that aberration with a second term. Politics is not a reality TV show! Lives are at stake. And if civil unrests erupts not into wilding riots initiated by foolish opportunists, but by committed men and women with guns, don’t shake your head and wonder ‘how could this happen here?’ It happens anytime a people shrug their shoulders and shake their heads, and sigh, ‘it was ever thus.’

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    1. EJ, I’m sorry you were disappointed with the dialogue, but let me just say a few things.

      First, the three of us are academics, so it is natural that we approach the subjects we discuss that way and from that perspective.

      Second, I think you really underestimate just how much wokeism is no longer restricted to the Academy but has run throughout our institutions. The progressive wing of the Democratic party, of which AOC is the non-official leader, is primarily motivated by wokeism. The compromising of the legacy news media is entirely wokeist in nature. And major corporations, especially in the tech industry, have gone super-woke.

      Third, I can’t speak for the others, but I have worked at every level of the employment chain there is. One of my early jobs was making frozen pizzas and being the dishwasher for the deli section of a local supermarket.

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    2. I completely agree with you on the unprecedented and discontinuous nature of this political moment; I also think the inability of many on the Left to register this fact has been a problem in meeting the needs of the moment. You get that – as your excellent recent essay shows.

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      1. 1970scholar,
        Yes, it’s pretty obvious that the Left, the Democratic Party, the mainstream media have all let us down again. We won’t know how badly until the final votes are counted – Biden may yet pull off 270 in the EC. But the results clearly indicate that the American people do not have the soul Biden appealed to. Almost certainly the Republicans will keep the senate; if they keep the White House too, we’ll have nothing but at least two years of unremitting chaos and division. I don’t understand the American willingness to keep going down the same road leading nowhere. Do they really think it all ends on election day? At any rate we are possibly headed into a permanent-minority-rule government. The Republic is unsustainable on that basis.

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  2. Dan,
    “I think you really underestimate just how much wokeism is no longer restricted to the Academy but has run throughout our institutions.” Possibly, although I hope not. “And major corporations, especially in the tech industry, have gone super-woke.” Corporations will follow whatever trend makes them money; when wokeism fades, as I think it will, corporations will lose interest in it soon enough. But in any event, this is certainly no real reason to vote for Trump. ” I can’t speak for the others, but I have worked at every level of the employment chain ” Yes, and your worldly experience has enriched your writing and point of view; but I’m not so sure about Spencer or Robert. I could be wrong. But I’ve learned not to take the debates of my college experiences, either undergraduate or graduate, as seriously as they seemed when I was younger.

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      1. Well, I apologize to him for my suggestion of innocence on his part. Perhaps it’s my own age misleading me into not taking that possibility into consideration. I certainly respect all the experiences he had in performing that duty. The only time I met my father, the only thing he could talk about was his experiences in WWII. So I can at least sympathize with people having survived the trauma of war. And it certainly would have helped him understand others not of his own background, those he fought beside.

        But there’s something mistaken in thinking that the threat on the left is anywhere near as immediate, as growing, or as potentially devastating to American culture as the current cultural insurrection from the right led by Trump – to the extent of being willing to surrender what little is left of the values that remains of our American common ground to a narcissistic TV personality who openly incites violence. I just don’t get it. I tried to let Spencer make his case, but that just isn’t a case. That’s like saying, in ’68, ‘I’m voting for Nixon, because otherwise they’ll let boys wear their hair long to school!’ And you know what? That was a real argument some people made – people got into fights, and law suits went to court over it. At the end of it boys wore their hair longer, and not much else changed. Except that we also got Kent State and Watergate.

        Wokeism may not be the fad I think it is, but it all comes down to fashion. I agree ‘cancel culture’ invites argument over the issue of free speech, but that issue will also need to confront similar ‘cancelling’ on the right – which happens more frequently outside of the academy than you may be aware. I’m voting for Biden – I’m certainly not telling that to any my colleagues at work, Limbaugh fans all! It’s a different kind of cancelling, but the effect is the same. The fact is that social performative restrictions like these have been around ever since society began developing into what we loosely call ‘civilization.’ Only arguments concerning legalities involved are really interesting, and worthy of the struggle.

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        1. EJ,

          What do you see as the threat from Trumpism? Serious question. Like, is it mainly policies or cultural effects?

          To me the main thing I see is incompetence, corruption, unbelievable corruption, inattentiveness, and cutting, infantile rhetoric. But I don’t see anything like a fascist takeover (not that you’ve said that).

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          1. Dan,
            as to the possibility of a fascist takeover (or attempt), we’ll see how Trump reacts to the election if he loses.

            Institutionally, what Trump represents is the culmination of a trend in American politics toward what I would call a monarchial Presidency. Not simply an ‘imperial presidency’ (which was always mere euphemism for expanding powers of the executive), but a Presidency operating on the premise “L’état, c’est moi.” William Barr has openly made that argument publicly in a number of venues, and it pleases Trump to no end, obviously. Barr calls this the principle of a “unitary executive,” whereby the individual agencies of the executive branch, rather than operating as agencies of service to policy and law, would function solely as extensions of the will of the President. It also means, by extension with little effort, that the Executive is independent of, not answerable to, and ultimately superior to, both Congress and the Judiciary. In the most extreme of best case scenarios, that of Louis XIV who first uttered the quoted phrase, it means that as long as the President does not provoke revolution, he can do pretty much what he wants. In the most egregious worst case scenario, you get the Hitler whose speech before the Reichstag following the Blood Purge I noted in my essay on Heidegger. In any event, representative democracy comes to an end; we get a rather illiberal version of Hegel’s version of ‘liberal state.’ This government cannot operate through rule by decree (by Executive Order or Presidential Proclamation) without losing the essential core of the principles founding the Constitution. To call Barr or the Justices willing to adopt this principle “originalists” is a joke. The Founders were quite clear that this is nothing that they wanted.

            Culturally, the effect of Trumpism is more difficult to explain, longer lasting, in some ways more profound. By the end of the era of McCarthyism, say the election of ’60, the far right had been pressured into the margins everywhere but the Deep South – and you wouldn’t be quite so hostile to ‘cancel culture’ if you knew how important it was in exerting that pressure. In the ’50s. being caught with a copy of any book by Marx would probably have gotten you a beating. Hell, having an EC Comics magazine would have gotten you at least a nasty lecture, while old biddies tore it from your hand and set it on fire for immorality. It took more than a decade of shaming, court cases, confrontation between conflicting demonstrations (sometimes violent) to push the Birch Society into near obscurity and reduce the Klan into recognition as borderline criminal gang.

            That marginalization of the Far Right was the world we bequeathed to you. You didn’t go through the Cultural Revolution and all its hopes and mistakes. You didn’t have to live through the transition from the ‘race riots’ of the 1950s (whites mobbing black children on school buses) to the riots of ’64 (ghettos in flame expressing frustration). You didn’t have to be raised in the culture of Leave it to Beaver and George Wallace. But. if Trump remains in the White House, your daughter will. Because he brought it all back. Because he’s an opportunistic McCarthyite. Because for him, women cook dinner, lay in bed, and sometimes make babies – Kinder, Küche, Kirche, without the Kirche. Which raises another Trump stain on the American psyche. We atheists have always suspected American fundamentalists of hypocrisy, and televangelism not only re-enforced that but made it somewhat amusing (oh, Tammy Faye!). But Trump has maneuvered the religious right into a position of hypocrisy (and conspiracy theory) from which they cannot recover. And I actually think that rather sad. Not because I wanted them to prosper, but because I respected people of faith, and none can respect them now. And this will have lasting impact on how we communicate henceforth. Can Trump turn America into a mirror of Putin’s Russia? In another term, maybe so. Most Americans are not aware of how dire the situation is in Russia. A couple years ago, I caught an episode of an odd Russian TV show; it was a political debate staged as a game show, and the opponents were allowed to engage fisticuffs. Would Trump’s America devolve to that? I think so. There is nothing decent in this man.

            And decency is the bottom line – politics in the 19th century could get very rough. But gradually we seemed to have progressed out of that. When Welch demanded of McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency?” he was essentially announcing the end of the rough politics, and transition to a political culture of reasonable disagreement that had been developing since Teddy Roosevelt. All that’s gone. More than a hundred years of progress torn up by a handful of tweets, and the Republican enablers who have excused them.

            it is often said, among liberals, that when right-wingers troll and insult us, we mustn’t respond in kind. (“They go low, we go high.”) With a Trump second term, we will have no choice; we’ll either get as low as they – or we admit communication is impossible and buy guns.

            Is fascism possible? I think so, but it’s not necessary to make that case. Is a civil war possible? Not as such, probably. Is violent civil unrest possible? More than likely.

            When America invaded Iraq, I warned that it would take decades to re-stabilize the Middle East, and, 20 year later, I have, sadly, been proven right. Now I warn that Trump already has already done such damage to American political culture, it will take us decades to heal. Another Trump term, and we’re through.

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          2. Robert,
            sorry for addressing you as “Dan,: I was just reading the comments rapidly…. (But, as Groucho would say, you must admit you would look like him, except that you don’t. Why is that?)

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          3. Hi EJ,

            I can’t reply directly to your comment — the option doesn’t come up — but I’ll just say a few things.

            (1) I could be wrong — I don’t follow day-to-day politics, like I said — but I get the sense that when there’s a court order that goes against his administration, Trump and his people follow it. If I’m right about that, that doesn’t sound very fascist to me.
            (2) The pandemic is a perfect opportunity for a committed fascist to start putting into place highly coercive measures. But Trump hasn’t done that. If anything, he seems quite laissez-faire.

            I don’t think Trump is a fascist. I think he’s lazy and self-absorbed.

            As for the rest of your comment, I think you’re too certain about many things. E.g., “You didn’t have to be raised in the culture of Leave it to Beaver and George Wallace. But. if Trump remains in the White House, your daughter will.” This seems to me extremely unlikely — the culture that makes TV shows isn’t about to bend the knee to Trump.

            “Trump has maneuvered the religious right into a position of hypocrisy (and conspiracy theory) from which they cannot recover. And I actually think that rather sad. Not because I wanted them to prosper, but because I respected people of faith, and none can respect them now.” Yes, many religious right-ists are hypocrites and conspiracy theorists. Indeed, most Americans are conspiracy theorists (something like 61% of Americans believe JFK was assassinated as a result of a massive conspiracy). If you were a member of the religious right, you would hear that the left is out to destroy you — to convince your children that homosexuality is not only OK, but cool, that gender roles are entirely social constructs and have nothing to do with biology, that the Bible is either a document supporting whatever left-wing ideology happens to be dominant, or a set of fabrications and half-truths, and so on. And your comments, not to mention your previous article in EA suggest that they’re not wrong to fear this. At least some people want to “de-Nazify” them. It’s no wonder they want to support a candidate who seems to be the antithesis of that.

            That said, I strongly believe, unlike many of my friends, that your vote doesn’t say much about your character. People on the religious right, in their personal dealings, can be helpful, compassionate, empathetic, everything. They’re people.

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          4. Robert,
            just a couple of notes;
            first, although the word “fascist” has been sorely and all-too-loosely misused since the early ’60s, there is such an identifiable politics. But fascism is not an ideology. It is an attitude and a governing style (which is what misled many to misuse the word in the ’60s since attitudes and styles express themselves in appearances and behaviors). Both of these have serious social and policy implications. The attitude includes a violent intolerance for differing opinions – opponents are not to be reasoned with but beaten down – physically, verbally, institutionally. It holds the military to be the paradigm social structure, hence a demand for rigid conformity. It also provides political spectacle for the masses – military marches, flags, jingoism, “social realist” arts, every opportunity for the leader of government to be made to appear as performer in some grand opera, rather than as servant of the people.

            Because the Fascist governing style is to elevate a single strong-willed individual as leader (or at best a small junta) to position of absolute decision-making and enactment and enforcement of government doctrine. This “Leader” operates without proper accountability to any legislative body. Where courts have any power, judges are appointed that will validate the Leader’s actions in law. By these measures, Trump looks very much like a Fascist. But there is one element lacking so far.

            The economics of Fascism are telling: the fascist mode of political economy is for the Leader’s government to cooperate with major corporations, primarily is controlling the labor force, either through propaganda, promised bribes, bullying, out-right violence. Right now, Trump has not gone that route. Will Trump do so in a second term? Probably not. But because Fascism operates primarily as attitude and governing style, we should remember that it takes very different forms in very different countries. Peronism in the industrializing Argentina was in important ways different from the Francoism of the repressively agricultural economy of Spain. Given America’s style of capitalism, a truly Fascist political economy as I have remarked would not likely be attainable here. So perhaps Trump is as Fascist as one can get in America. But isn’t that bad enough?

            “I get the sense that when there’s a court order that goes against his administration, Trump and his people follow it. If I’m right about that, that doesn’t sound very fascist to me.” Trump has appointed three Supreme Court Justices and more than 200 federal judges. A complicit Republican Senate has already shown considerable willingness to give him wide parameters of response to the Congress and may do so in his responses to the courts as well. We’ll see (but hopefully Biden wins, and we won’t.).

            Finally:
            “People on the religious right, in their personal dealings, can be helpful, compassionate, empathetic, everything. They’re people.” Of course, that’s why I remarked the people of Nazi Germany in response to your essay, which I then repeated in my own essay. They were not monsters; they felt called upon to commit monstrous acts. That’s always the real problem. Store clerks today, death camp guards tomorrow, depending on the situation and the leadership they trust. Have these “helpful, compassionate, empathetic” people complained much about the more than 500 Hispanic children orphaned by this administration? Probably not. For some of them, Trump is god’s ‘chosen one;’ all sins are excusable as long as they get another anti-abortion SCOTUS justice. (‘Well, at least he isn’t gay!’)

            From your previous writings and discussions with Dan, I gather that you are somewhat hopeful that moral people will or should always operate morally (or at least try. That’s not the way of the world. Before the ’70s. a myth had developed that larger, socially organized apes were living in peaceful harmony (indicating that human violence was an evolutionary aberration). Further research demonstrated that chimps and guerillas actually engage in murder, tribal war, attempted genocide over territorial claims. The chimps will actually eat the young of the defeated, possibly as demonstration of their victorious savagery. It is well to remember that humans are only a species of naked ape, after all.

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      1. Great discussion. And yes, it is a model for how people should be able to talk about these things. Where I live, at least, there are tons of Trump flags and banners in people’s lawn, but also a university (my employer) right down the road. And still, I do not see a lot of Trump voters willing to be open about it or articulate their reasons. Maybe just signs of the times, but I think they are still quite leery about expressing that preference. And my guess is also that when they do – by non-Trump supporters -they are not asked for their reasons. They are assumed to be racists and xenophobes. I’m sure some are. I’m sure (because my parents are some) that others aren’t.

        Regarding whether a vote for Trump will stem the tide of ‘wokeism’ I listened to Spencer and I cannot see the force of his case. If anything, I think the recent surge in ‘wokeism’ is arguably a reaction to Trump. Put it this way: I know a lot of non-white people who are convinced that Trump has simply emboldened the country’s previously hidden racism, despite none being able (when asked) to point to a single policy over the past four year endorsed by Trump that made their lives worse off for their ethnicity. Trump, they say, is a symbol of racism. Yup. And if he is in office for four more years, he will be such a symbol – and lightening rod – for years to come. I can’t see how that won’t embolden woke-ism.

        I also think Spencer may be overestimating how much power a president has. He can make sure that no federal money goes to antiracism trainings utilizing critical race theory (a horrendous policy, in my view). That and veto bills. That’s something. But it’s not a lot. If AOC is the Democratic Party going forward, she is whether Trump wins a second term or not.

        I should say for myself that this is the first presidential election since I’ve been eligible to vote (43 years old) where i am not casting a vote for prez. I am simply disgusted with the choices. I very rarely vote major party, but I can’t even vote the LIbertarian candidate this year, as Jo Jorgensen reveals her incompetence at every turn. I have never been able to seriously consider voting Trump, and there were a few Democratic candidates (Yang, Gabbard) that I would have voted for. But Biden comes with as many evils as I think Trump does, mostly in his “stay the course” establishmentism where every solution to problems is to find more ways to raise taxes, regulate more industries, and simply perpetuate existing programs by expanding them. I am truly ambivalent this time – and disgusted by the naked partisanship/tribalism I see ALL around me – in a way I’ve never been before.

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        1. I was actually somewhat excited at the possibility that I might pencil in Andrew Yang, but then I found out that he is not “eligible” in the state of NC as a write-in candidate. So, in the most literal sense of the term, I’d be “throwing my vote away” with that. Literally, even voting third party would be preferable, as at least my vote would show up in stats.

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        2. Really too bad that you’re not voting, given that NC is a state that could go either way. Your vote there actually matters, and I would suggest that you have a civic duty to do so.

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          1. I’d say that voting is a right, not a duty, and that rights tend to be opportunities more than mandates.

            Especially in the case of voting, I think a STRONG case can be made that if there is a duty, it is that IF one votes, it is tat they vote WELL. After all, the point of voting is not the act, but that the act will (collectively) result in something that has tremendous spillover effects onto everyone. In that case, voting requires a lot of preparation, and an honest belief that the voter is voting for someone who has the policy positions that should govern the country.

            That’s why I think that voting cannot be said to be a civic duty, unless we would also argue that the civic duty extends to things like spending a decent amount of time and energy thinking about politics, understanding as much as one can policy minutae, etc. And I am very uncomfortable saying that those things are duties (in any but the most rhetorical and rhetorically empty way).

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          2. But I’d also argue, Dan, that your response puts the car before the horse. You write that the reason my abstention is a shame is that “NC is a state that could go either way.” But my original comment specified that the reason I am abstaining is that I cannot see either candidate as more uniquely bad than the other. They are both, in my view, bad in different ways. If the goal of my voting is for me to pick which outcome I prefer, I prefer neither of the outcomes.

            Maybe you’d argue that I am wrong in that, and that Biden is the better candidate. Okay, then your comment still misses the mark…. unless you assume that my abstention simply takes a vote away from Biden. (In fact, as a frequent non-major-party voter, I often joke that I have Schroedinger’s vote: every partisan will tell me that my third party or non-vote just gives a vote to whoever they can’t stand… because everyone assumes that but for the third party I’m voting for, I’d REALLY have voted for their horse. But that’s an assumption and it is usually unwarranted based on information I’ve disclosed.

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  3. Very interesting conversation.

    I basically agree with what EJ Winner says above.

    The conversation might have been even better if you had included a participant from the left. At one point you, Dan K., presented yourself as being on the left, but actually, you’re a centrist. Maybe in the future you can include EJ Winner as someone from the left in such conversations.

    My take is that the U.S. is not going back to normal. The history of the U.S. can be seen as the rise of a great power,
    from 13 colonies which first dominate the west and Latin America (Monroe Doctrine) and then post World War 2 dominate the world, going unchallenged since the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago. That normal was liberal, as Dan K. says, although very hypocritical given slavery, genocide against indigenous people, Jim Crow, McCarthyism, etc.,: still, that hypocrisy had a certain innocence to it, often being unconscious of itself as hypocrisy.

    As the U.S. cultural, political and economic global hegemony breaks down (and it seems to be breaking down), we get on the one hand, Make America Great Again and on the other hand, wokeism which is an exaggerated and hysterical reaction against almost 250 years of liberal hypocrisy. But, as they say, you can’t go home again and to a certain extent, home (liberalism) was never really there to begin with.

    We have a bet, Dan, and we never discussed what would occur with our bet if Trump fraudulently claims to be elected and gets away with it. However, if Biden wins (and one strong argument in favor of Biden is that no reasonable person can imagine Biden fraudulently claiming to win the election), I intend to donate the money to the Electric Agora with the proviso that you recruit a woke columnist and participant in your Youtube dialogues.

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    1. I hope I lose that bet.

      I would gladly have woke types on. Alas, so far they have refused to have anything to do with me. They actively block me on social media, so I can’t even reach out.

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      1. They can be very close-minded. Back in the days of the Feminist Philosophers Blog, I ended up on ultra moderation status (it was a blog where comments normally appeared automatically) with my comments taking over 24 hours to appear, if they appeared at all and I think of myself as a feminist: I just missed very small nuances of what political correctness was.

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  4. Here’s another point I intended to make. Those of you who think that that SJW-ism is a reaction to Trump should consider the opposite possibility, that Trump and right wing populism is partly a reaction to the left’s excesses. The two seemed to rise in tandem. Moreover, I’d argue that political correctness has been gradually increasing since the 1980s, with a slight lull in the early 2000s. So I think the timeline favors my interpretation.

    I’m not persuaded by the assertion that wokeness is a marginal force in society. Yes, lots of people are alienated by it. And yet we see people in positions of power and authority — university presidents and CEOS — making concessions to it. People like Robin DiAngelo and Ibram Kendi have been elevated to guru status. Academics are talking about eliminating anonymous review so that certain groups can be promoted. The fact that it keeps gaining steam despite its unpopularity speaks to its influence. Again, I’d ask you: if every corporation felt pressured to make some kind of nationalistic statement, would you shrug this off?

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    1. Spencer,
      ” if every corporation felt pressured to make some kind of nationalistic statement, would you shrug this off?” What’s to shrug off? I’ve lived with that my whole life, it’s an American cultural phenomenon, has been since after the Civil War. What are you talking about? That’s capitalism. I still don’t get it.

      Political correctness, left and right, has been a form of rhetorical control since the trial of Socrates. Is it a good thing? No. is some variety of it inevitable? Sure. Does Trump’s presidency have anything to do with it, one way or another? Not in my opinion. But does Trump’s presidency have to do with the attempted assassination of the governor of Michigan? I suspect so.

      It seems to me there is a choice between a potential unpleasantness that can be combatted using legal means (assuming – as I don’t – that Biden would be overwhelmed in a leftist tide); and on the other hand, an open and notorious inciter of violence for whom law means nothing.

      Gee, I don’t know… let me think about that…
      Nope, already voted for Biden. If there is to be a left-wing tide, bring it on, let’s have that debate. Better that than militiamen standing on street corners with AR 17s.

      Look, snark aside, where is the argument you need that a second Trump term somehow reduces your anxiety concerning wokeness – after the undeniable chaos of the first term, and after the incredible botching of a federal response to the pandemic, and after the ruinous foreign policy elevating our enemies and friendly (to Trump) dictators and betrayal of allies and a completely tone-deaf response to the racial upheaval of the past year – and one goes on and on and on, suffering insane tweets day in and out, etc., etc., I mean, how does that some how put wokeness in check? Especially when it gets unbridled and unleashed in a second term?

      A year ago, I sat in a diner when four lawyers (judging from their discussion) sat in the booth behind me. They started talking about how pleased they were that Trump had appointed ‘originalists’ to the SCOTUS. I obviously disagree, but I had not been invited to dine with them, so said nothing. Curtesy has its own leverage over what we say, as you well know. But that’s not my point. As strongly as I disagreed with these lawyers, on Trump’s success with the SCOTUS, and about the ‘originalist’ interpretation of Constitutional law, their reason for supporting Trump was very serious and substantial. They actually wanted his presidency to accomplish something for them.

      But I listen to you, and read you, and I don’t know what you want from Trump regarding wokeness. To make the Democratic Party less left leaning? That doesn’t get you want you seem to want, and that wouldn’t be the way to get it – you would actually need to join the Democratic Party and change it from within. That’s practical politics. That’s how the Parties got to where they are today.

      As far as the academy is about… well, I’ve already gone on about that. Suffice it here to remark that your probable remedies are legal or organizational. I don’t think any university president is going to be much impressed by a Trump second term. That’s not why they respond in the way they do to either wokeness or any other politics on campus. They run a business; their primary concerns on political and social issues are potential lawsuits; loss of enrollments and grants, and consequent loss of revenue; balancing academic expectations with student and professional desires. I don’t see what a Trump presidency has anything to do with that.

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  5. I’m more than little flummoxed at Dan and Robert’s claim that countries were all, more or less, equally fucked by COVID and that the response doesn’t make a huge difference. Robert’s countries for comparison (Brazil, UK, and France) all rank, with us, in the top 20 of countries by deaths per capita, each with notorious and overlapping failures with respect to COVID response. All those countries have roughly similar death rates to ours (70 per 100,000), but Canada doesn’t (28); Germany doesn’t (13); Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan don’t (<1). Robert can spitball that we could've only saved 50,000 lives up to this point (based on a gut check?), and then grant, in a quick aside, that that's "significant", but he's not treating it like it's all that significant. I'm sorry, dude, but that is an incredibly glib appraisal of one of the biggest governmental failures in the history of the country. And let's not forget that the failure is ongoing and magnifying. Prepare to gut-check higher.

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      1. Not sure what information this is based on. We’re on the shitty tail end of the COVID bell curve across numerous indicators, deaths per capita included. I mean, fine if you want to ignore China’s dubious figures, but we have plenty of other countries to put us to shame.

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    1. Well, it was the main reason I was voting for Biden.

      But listen: Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan aren’t good comps. They all had previous experience with SARS and developed state capacity around that about seventeen years ago. They all also have generally more competent government agencies than the US has, and are smaller countries with (I’m guessing) less defiant and less affectively polarized populations.

      The 50,000 lives figure was based on a gut check — I looked at the deaths per 100,000 in France (54, IIRC) and assumed that a replacement-level president could get the USA to that # just by encouraging greater mask use and giving more compelling guidance about what to do. That gives us 188,000 deaths.

      That said, if a Democrat were in office and counseled mask-wearing, how many Republican voters would have listened? Republicans are already wary of government agencies telling them to change their way of life. I think it’s possible that a Democrat in office would actually have overall DECREASED mask wearing in the USA compared to Trump, simply because of Republican recalcitrance. How confident am I of that? I have no idea how to figure out what confidence level to attribute to it. But this actually INCREASES Trump’s culpability — my guess is that any other Republican president would have encouraged masks, and such encouragement would have had more oomph with more Republicans than a Democrat’s encouragement.

      But again, it’s not just Republicans who are getting sick or dying. A lot of people are not wearing masks as much as (I think) they should.

      In addition, I think a Democrat would have been less likely to challenge the CDC and FDA on making good tests than a Republican would, because I don’t think Democrats are as friendly towards de-regulating as Republicans are. And yet, Trump put no pressure on these agencies. Again, this makes Trump MORE culpable, not less.

      I have no idea how Canada has such low death rates. Maybe it’s due to lower density. Maybe it’s due to a greater Asian proportion of the population who has more cultural knowledge about how to respond to pandemics. As for Germany, they have a less centralized public health system than the USA which, I’ve read, may have something to do with lower deaths per capita; I guess the idea was that each Bundesland did more experimentation and shared what worked. But I read that back in, like, May.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh, and BTW, if I said ALL countries were equally fucked, I misspoke. I meant — and I hope I said — that Western European countries were generally pretty bad at controlling this. Belgium (104 per 100,000), Spain (78), USA (71), UK (71), Italy (65), Sweden (58), France (56), Netherlands (44), Ireland (39.5).

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          1. It also could be seen as an orderly, peaceful society with a social democratic government concerned about its population in contrast to the U.S., a violent, unequal society with a rightwing populist leader.

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          2. Uh…ok.

            Hopefully, you aren’t being serious. The US has over 300 million people. Is wildly heterogeneous, from the standpoint of religion, ethnicity, culture, mores, etc. It has extended borders both to its north and south. Etc. Etc. And it is physically enormous in size.

            NZ is a cakewalk to govern compared to that, especially in times of trouble. And regardless of political leadership.

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          3. At this point in the disaster that is the handling of Covid in the U.S., I suggest that they begin to take a look even at New Zealand or Uruguay, countries which handled it better than they did.

            The U.S., a country with in technical terms one of the best healthcare systems in the world, but with a president who refused to wear a mask, thus setting a bad example to begin with, who spent his time instilling distrust in the population towards media, CNN, NY Times, which could have informed them of how to face the crisis, a president who suggested that people inject bleach, who never showed a moment of concern or empathy for the over 200 thousand deaths due to the pandemic: just some examples and I don’t even follow the U.S. media very closely, surely there are more examples.

            Surely, another leader, almost any other leader, could have done better than Trump.

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        1. NZ did great.

          Again, not super analogous. Also, although Jocinda is a social Democrat, she also used fierce border controls to prevent foreigners from arriving, which would be hard to implement here. Also NZ has better state capacity. The people run into their state officials and bureaucrats in grocery stores. That helps make them more responsive.

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      1. rgressis:

        “Oh, and BTW, if I said ALL countries were equally fucked, I misspoke. I meant — and I hope I said — that Western European countries were generally pretty bad at controlling this. Belgium (104 per 100,000), Spain (78), USA (71), UK (71), Italy (65), Sweden (58), France (56), Netherlands (44), Ireland (39.5).”

        Not the impression you gave at all. Around the 9:20 mark, Dan paints a picture “globally” of countries trying a bunch of different strategies and then everyone pretty much getting equally fucked. Which is straight-up false by your own preferred metric. Even so, you agreed with that assessment “broadly speaking” and proceeded to cite three countries for comparison to us. All of these countries had notoriously sluggish responses to COVID and most of them had leaders who purposefully spread misinformation and encouraged behavior that contradicted health officials.

        That said, your looking at France’s figures and assuming a president that encouraged masked use and gave more compelling guidance doesn’t sound like the most credible basis for deciding how many people could’ve been saved. That’s the barest minimum, even below the suggestions you discussed in your all’s roundtable, which, I have to stress, do not exhaust the avenues we could’ve pursued as one of the richest countries on earth with vast international influence. The standard is not us having to reach the same death rate as East Asian countries. The standard also isn’t what would’ve happened with a Democratic president. We’re talking about what was available to Trump, the actual president, and what he squandered due to unbridled vanity.

        I don’t want to speculate on other countries polarization (gut check: especially not countries like Taiwan), but it sort of defeats the purpose as a confound when one of your main might-have-beens involves mask guidance, which you grant Trump was uniquely positioned to persuade people with low social trust to adopt. His polar pull would’ve been an asset there. It’s not like Trump embracing masks would’ve discouraged Democrats from wearing them.

        We’ll never know how many people really could’ve been saved, but we know that we have at least three more months of Trump at the helm, that the numbers are rising, and that this is far from over. Even by your own counts of what can be attributable to Trump, by the end of January, there will be roughly 100,000 Americans wiped off the face of the earth simply because he couldn’t be convinced to give a shit. I mean, he could’ve even cemented his own electoral victory. That’s less a notch on the chalkboard as we casually converse about the pluses and minuses of candidates than it is a massive, unconscionable failure. There’s making difficult choices with bad consequences among a host of difficult choices, and there is gross, abject malfeasance. I can’t say that Dan’s summary is correct, broadly speaking or otherwise.

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        1. Rewatching it, I can see why you got the impression you did. All I can tell you is when Dan said “everyone fucked it up” I mentally substituted “western Europe” for everyone because I thought Western Europe was the closest comparison class.

          “That said, your looking at France’s figures and assuming a president that encouraged masked use and gave more compelling guidance doesn’t sound like the most credible basis for deciding how many people could’ve been saved.”

          OK. What’s the most credible basis to arrive at how many people would have died if Hilary Clinton had been president? If this has been worked out, I haven’t heard of it, but I haven’t heard of a lot of things.

          “That’s the barest minimum, even below the suggestions you discussed in your all’s roundtable, which, I have to stress, do not exhaust the avenues we could’ve pursued as one of the richest countries on earth with vast international influence.”

          How do you know that France’s numbers are the barest minimum? I just picked France because it seemed to be in the middle of Western European performance. So I figured that was what we could have expected with Hillary in charge. Also, how do you know what we could have done? Do we have the state capacity to do what Paul Romer suggested and make and administer one test every two weeks for every American? Like, we have the *manufacturing* capacity, but it doesn’t follow from that that enough people in governance are on the same page to put that manufacturing capacity into action. And again, I wasn’t looking hard, but I don’t recall many politicians saying that we need to make sure that the FDA and CDC allow more private tests and become more lenient in their regulations.

          “The standard is not us having to reach the same death rate as East Asian countries. The standard also isn’t what would’ve happened with a Democratic president. We’re talking about what was available to Trump, the actual president, and what he squandered due to unbridled vanity.”

          I don’t get this complaint. I did say that Trump was, in virtue of being a Republican, better positioned than a Democrat to do something about this and that therefore he is more culpable than a Democrat is.

          “it sort of defeats the purpose as a confound when one of your main might-have-beens involves mask guidance, which you grant Trump was uniquely positioned to persuade people with low social trust to adopt. His polar pull would’ve been an asset there. It’s not like Trump embracing masks would’ve discouraged Democrats from wearing them.”

          Again, I thought I made this point.

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          1. regressis:

            “OK. What’s the most credible basis to arrive at how many people would have died if Hilary Clinton had been president? If this has been worked out, I haven’t heard of it, but I haven’t heard of a lot of things.”

            Like I said, I’m not playing that game. I’m talking about the actual president here and his actual, awful response. We don’t judge Trump’s culpability based on what Clinton couldn’t do. We judge his culpability on what he could do, and the fact that his party has the Senate, that the opposition party in the House is not only refusing to obstruct a response but is zealously pursuing one, and that Trump (even beyond his party affiliation) has unique credibility with the demographics least likely to heed professional guidance, the fact is that he had avenues available to him that no counterfactuals about Clinton will wash away.

            “How do you know that France’s numbers are the barest minimum? I just picked France because it seemed to be in the middle of Western European performance. So I figured that was what we could have expected with Hillary in charge. Also, how do you know what we could have done? Do we have the state capacity to do what Paul Romer suggested and make and administer one test every two weeks for every American? Like, we have the *manufacturing* capacity, but it doesn’t follow from that that enough people in governance are on the same page to put that manufacturing capacity into action. And again, I wasn’t looking hard, but I don’t recall many politicians saying that we need to make sure that the FDA and CDC allow more private tests and become more lenient in their regulations.”

            Didn’t mean that their numbers are the barest minimum. Meant that assuming the alternative was “encouraging greater mask use and giving more compelling guidance” is the barest minimum of what could’ve been pursued, which fell short of even your suggestions. Why would these be our only assumed alternatives when talking about credible ways to save lives? I can’t claim to know exactly how much we could’ve done (no one fully can), but even on something like testing, just look out how rapidly we were able to ramp that up even after months of slow-walking and misinformation from the Trump administration. (No evidence that I know of for his brag of obstructing testing.) In spite of executive apathy and shit-stirring, we were able to up our testing rate to one of the highest in the world. Imagine if we hadn’t waited on deploying the DPA and if we hadn’t deployed it so sparingly. Imagine him using his credibility with skeptics not just with masks, but with testing too, normalizing it instead encouraging active resistance. Again, even by your own guesstimate, with cases currently rising, by the end of this presidential term we could attribute as many bodies to Trump’s malfeasance as troops lost in the European theater of WWII. That’s nuts.

            “Again, I thought I made this point.”

            Yes, but it leaves me in a weird position where you’re telling me that I shouldn’t compare Trump’s failure to East Asian successes because the latter are supposedly less polarized while you’re simultaneously arguing that he was more culpable because of his unique positioning to harness polarization to everyone’s benefit. I mean, OK. They are different. And he is far worse. If we’re in agreement on that, great, but I don’t see that restricting this to Western countries dramatically lessens the failure we’re talking about here.

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  6. Ding dong the witch is dead
    which old witch
    the wicked witch
    ding dong the wicked witch is dead!

    I see that the Covid crisis has absorbed the discussion here, so let me toss in two cents that might calm, if not truly settle, some of the disagreements:

    The problem in America has been two fold. First is the utter lack of leadership at the federal level;
    the second has been Trump’s decision to politicize the crisis on the apparent assumption that simply delegitimating proper responses to it would somehow kick-start the economy after the retrenchment the pandemic made necessary. The first was clearly a matter of incompetence, the second, of criminal negligence.

    What does it matter what country did better than any other? It simply didn’t have to be this bad in America,

    I can think of no other health crisis in this country that has ever been politicized in the manner Trump and his cultists have Covid – not even AIDS. It makes no sense; except, I suppose to those who want to be “right” – victorious in the White House – at literally any cost. The fact that there are so many of these, in the electorate, in Congress – is truly discouraging. We can no longer trust our fellow Americans to BE fellow Americans. That does not bode well for the future.

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