What was so depressing to me about the Covington incident was how so many liberals felt comfortable taking a random teenager and, purely because of his race and gender, projected onto him all their resentments and hatred of “white men” in general. Here is Kara Swisher, a sane and kind person, reacting to the first video: “To all you aggrieved folks who thought this Gillette ad was too much bad-men-shaming, after we just saw it come to life with those awful kids and their fetid smirking harassing that elderly man on the Mall: Go fuck yourselves.” Judging — indeed demonizing — an individual on the basis of the racial or gender group he belongs to is the core element of racism, and yet it is now routine on the left as well as the right. To her great credit, Kara apologized profusely for the outburst. The point here is that tribal hatred can consume even the best of us.

And this is what will inevitably happen once you’ve redefined racism or sexism to mean prejudice plus power. It’s reasonable to note the social context of bigotry and see shades of gray, in which the powerful should indeed be more aware of how their racial or gender prejudice can hurt others, and the powerless given some slack. But if that leads you to ignore or downplay the nastiest adult bigotry imaginable and to focus on a teen boy’s silent face as the real manifestation of evil, you are well on your way to creating a new racism that mirrors aspects of the old.

This is the abyss of hate versus hate, tribe versus tribe. This is a moment when we can look at ourselves in the mirror of social media and see what we have become. Liberal democracy is being dismantled before our eyes — by all of us. This process is greater than one president. It is bottom-up as well as top-down. Tyranny, as Damon Linker reminded us this week, is not just political but psychological, and the tyrannical impulse, ratcheted up by social media, is in all of us. It infects the soul of the entire body politic. It destroys good people. It slowly strangles liberal democracy. This is the ongoing extinction level event.

Andrew writes further about the legalization of marijuana, which has led to “dabbing”, or vaporizing concentrated weed resin. He decries this practice mainly because it leads to somnolence rather than facilitating good conversation, which is what he wants out of the drug. I am on his side, as I tend to become more gregarious when I partake. A few years ago tried dabbing in a state where it was legal to buy and smoke recreationally, and it blitzed me out for about 8 hours, in a way that just made me withdraw and want to sack out rather than chat. Our new governor has vowed to make marijuana legal in Illinois, and we’ll see if that happens. His third segment is about Brexit.

Speaking of Covington, one of the venues that’s tried its hardest to maintain its narrative in the face of changing facts is the Guardian, a site I rarely visit any more. Have a gander at this headline, from a story posted last Wednesday:

The article, and the Guardian as a whole, makes me ill; they’re presenting a caricature of the Left. When Wilson writes something like this, did he ever care about the truth? I don’t think so; he just wanted to maintain that the Covington students were still pariahs while dissing the conservative media that painted them as heroes. Nobody was a hero in that narrative, but neither were the boys nor the Native Americans pariahs. Wilson:

On Tuesday night, Fox News hosts continued to feast on the controversy, which was sparked by a standoff between Covington Catholic high school students and a Native American veteran called Nathan Phillips. Footage show students wearing pro-Trump Maga hats taunting the Omaha tribe elder. The relentlessly repeated talking point – that there was a collective “rush to judgment” on the boys because they were Trump supporters – was used by conservative anchors Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham to attack mainstream media and left leaning social media users.

. . . As of Wednesday, as a result of these well-worn tactics, liberal media has almost completely backed away from their initial, justified take on the story.

When will we ever learn?

Yep, use the kids to go after your favorite targets.  And “initial justified take on the story”? I don’t think so!

Speaking of social-media outrage, here’s a good article in The Atlantic by Conor Friedersdorf:

A quote:

For example: I’m sitting in a coffee shop as I write this. Imagine that a man sitting at a nearby table spilled his coffee, got a phone call just afterward, and simply left, so that staff had to clean up his mess, a scene that culminated in a haggard-looking barista drooping her shoulders in frustration. Was the call a true emergency? We don’t know. But if not, almost everyone would agree that the man behaved badly.

Yet almost all of you would react with discomfort or opprobrium if I followed the man back to his office, learned his name, spent half an hour waiting to see his boss, adopted an outraged tone, explained his transgression, felt righteous, then commenced a week-long mission to alert his extended network of friends, family, and professional contacts to his behavior, all the while telling masses of strangers about it, too.

On the other hand, if that man spilled his coffee, leaving that same haggard barista to clean it up, and if I captured the whole thing on my phone camera and posted it to Twitter with a snarky comment about the need to better respect service workers, some nontrivial percentage of the public would help make the clip go viral, join in the shaming, and expend effort to “snitch-tag” various people in the man’s personal life. Some would quietly raise an eyebrow at my role in that public shaming, but I mostly wouldn’t be treated as a transgressor.

One cannot help but wonder whether there are better norms. . .

From Inside Higher Ed, Alan Sokal, author of the Great Hoax, criticizes the persecution of philosopher Peter Boghossian by his employer Portland State University (PSU) after Peter, James Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose submitted fake articles to humanities journals, exposing the egregiously low standards of those journals—and the disciplines as a whole. PSU found Peter guilty of violating rules about experimentation on human subjects—in this case, the subjects were journal editors and reviewers—without following “human subject research” policy.  Found guilty, Peter may be fired. Yet the federal regulations apply only to federally-funded research, which wasn’t behind Boghossian et al.’s work. Portland State just decided as its policy to follow the federal rules. Read on:

Sokal thinks this punishment is dumb, and I agree, but those who think the excesses of the humanities are just fine, thank you, are going for Peter’s throat. Vindictiveness reigns.

And Portland State University, like many other universities, has decided, as a matter of its own internal policy, to apply federal IRB rules to all research carried out by PSU employees or students — though such treatment is legally mandatory only for projects sponsored by the federal government, which Boghossian’s was not.

But common sense suggests that something has gone seriously awry here, when rules initially written to protect subjects in biomedical research from physical harm — and later extended to social-science research, where the harm could be psychological — are applied blindly and literally to an “audit study” aimed at testing the intellectual standards of scholarly journals. As Singal observed, “the potential for harm came in the form of reputational damage and humiliation to journal editors and reviewers.” But so what? The journal editors are professionals undertaking a public responsibility, not people in the street. If they screw up, why shouldn’t this be publicly known? Moreover, the journal editors are not voiceless: if their actions were defensible (as they may well have been), they and their supporters can set forth their reasons, and the rest of us can evaluate the competing arguments with our own brains.

Please note that the issue here is different from the one addressed in two recent articles, where it was proposed that research projects deemed to pose “low risk” might be exempted from IRB review (an issue that is quite delicate, as the comments on these articles show). Here I am not contending that the reputational risk to journal editors caught publishing grossly deficient articles is low. Quite the contrary: this risk can, depending on the circumstances, be severe. What I am contending, rather, is that journal editors do not deserve to be protected from this type of risk.

What we see here is a guy being punished not for violating sensible rules, but for violating senseless ideology.

Finally, The Washington Post calls out Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for telling whoppers, which she does habitually. And it’s a shame, as I like many of her policy recommendations. But she keeps shooting herself in the foot with misstatements and a fulminating love of the limelight (h/t Heather Hastie for the link):

The Post:

Ocasio-Cortez deserves credit for using her high profile to bring attention to income inequality. However, she undermines her message when she plays fast and loose with statistics. A lot of Americans do not earn enough for a living wage, but we cannot find evidence that it is the majority. Amazon and Walmart pay well above the minimum wage, contrary to her statement, and it is tendentious to claim those companies specifically get some sort of a wealth transfer from the public when such benefits flow to all low-wage workers in many companies. Overall, she earns Three Pinocchios.

The new Representative is awarded three Pinocchios for her misstatements, which, on the Post’s ratings, represent “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions. This gets into the realm of “mostly false.”