In which I visit Woke Left websites

It’s really time I stopped looking at HuffPost, as my friends tell me repeatedly. But I still like to look at Woke Left websites, just like I look at conservative and centrist or center-Left websites: just to see what’s going on.

I’ve managed to break the habit of looking at Salon, though, spending a bit of time there today, I was appalled to see how mindlessly authoritarian it has become: it’s almost a caricature of Authoritarian rhetoric. One example: I saw the movie Green Book on the plane to Europe, and thought it was pretty damn good, though I was of course aware that the family of the black protagonist Don Shirley objected to its factual inaccuracies. But it was a movieand not a biography. Liberties were and are taken in movies like this.

Salon‘s objection, though, was the familiar one that Green Book was a “white savior movie.” That I don’t quite get, as it’s a movie in which a black man weans a white man from his racism, and a white man helps a black man come out of his shell. If there was any saving, it was mutual. But I prefer to think of it as the story of two very different men finding their common humanity. The story was absorbing, new to me, pretty much if not wholly true, and the acting was superb. Andit by no means whitewashed the racism of the South in the early Sixties.

But if you read Salon‘s house critic’s review of the movie, you’re thrust into a world where the quality of a work of art depends entirely on whether it corresponds to the critic’s intersectionalist ideology. Here, for instance, is the end of (t.v.) critic Melanie McFarland’s splenetic review of Green Book:

It’s much simpler, however, to spit-shine escapist Social Progress tales drawn from a mythologized version of history. These reassure mainstream white audiences of how far we’ve come as a nation despite the headlines about a spike in hate crimes, the rising white nationalist presence within law enforcement and in politics, racially motivated mass shootings and widening wealth gaps between whites and non-white minority groups.

None of this is to say that Farrelly has no right to direct “Green Book” or that Vallelonga should not have told his father’s story. But it would have helped, perhaps, if someone from within Shirley’s family circle had been consulted, if only to prevent “Green Book” from being a story about a white man’s flirtation with racism by way of witnessing a black man’s strained effort to survive and succeed in spite of it.

So in this way “Green Book” transforms racism into something that, you know, really makes you think, something terrible happening to other people, something that’s really too bad, instead of an ever-present structure in America from which people either specifically or unwittingly benefit. Racism is awful, but it doesn’t force Tony to risk anything aside from punching out a few people threatening the guy who’s paying him.

And that’s soothing. It sells the idea that as long as a person doesn’t behave like a violent criminal from Sundown Town, Alabama, when confronted with a person whose skin is darker than theirs, that’s enough. The passage of time will take care of the rest, assisted by a few take-out meals and road trips along the way.

“Green Book” is a manual for an outdated mode of thinking, in other words, and a mode of moviemaking that needed to end yesterday. But we’ll take 2019. That would be a fine time for fresh start.

The underlying theme of this vitriol is that racism in America hasn’t gotten any better since 1962—a palpably ridiculous claim, but one that makes me realize why people objected to Steven Pinker’s last two books on progress—and that making racism personal elides the fact that it’s a structural, endemic, and omnipresent feature of America. Unfortunately for McFarland, we’ve made a lot of strides in the last 57 years, and although racism still pollutes America, the purpose of the movie was to tell the story of two men embedded in a time when bigotry was an unquestioned feature of the American South. It is the story of two men, not a polemic about the racism of modern day America, which is what McFarland wanted. She reviewed the movie not as it was, but in comparison to the movie she would have made, which would be the equivalent of art under Stalin.

But I fulminate. I liked the movie. I will not be going back to Salon any time soon.

If you want to see a calm refutation of all these criticisms of Green Book, including the erroneous claims of Shirley’s family, watch this video.

On a happier note, HuffPost continues to go down the tubes, at least judging from its analytics seen here. Viewership seems to have dropped about 50% just since October:

 


x

 

In comparison, The New York Times, flawed as it is but still not fully Woke, is holding pretty steady over that period:

It will be a happy day for me when HuffPost closes up shop.

 

45 Comments

  1. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I look at conservative and centrist or center-Left websites: just to see what’s going on.

    Hey, always wise to keep a fingertip on the Zeitgeist’s carotid.

  2. Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    60 million for Huff Po and 1.5 million for NYT? Jesus wept.

    • Posted April 9, 2019 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      This is what paywalls do.

      • Posted April 9, 2019 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        Huff Po should put up a pay wall immediately.

        It’s funny a rarely see a link to Huff Po these days other than at WEIT.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 9, 2019 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

          A rumour doing the rounds is HuffPo will probably merge with BuzzFeed [incidentally both were started by a Jonah Peretti at about the same time] – both companies announced this year they’re shedding staff. IMO BuzzFeed should transition to a greater proportion of quality journalism – it’s done some great award-winning & nominated-for-awards stories & it could go to a subscriber model like the NYT & be less in thrall to ads revenue which can disappear almost overnight if one publishes a controversial article. Also someone like facebook can come along & steal your advertisers with sweet deals since they have the deep pockets to do so.

          Another approach is to keep free access, but have some content as subscription only on another site – HuffPo or BuzzFeed [can’t recall which] is already starting to do that.

          The NYT has around 4 million subscribers, most of them digital. Many readers only dip in for certain content once or twice a week, but they are still happy to pay full whack for the content. An amazing number of new subs [tens of thousands it’s claimed], just want the cookery columns, lifestyle articles or the crossword. They plan to have around $800M digital revenue [subs + ads] in 2020 which should be achievable.

  3. Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Visiting woke websites, huh? No wonder you’re having a “black dog” day.

  4. Davide Spinello
    Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if there is a singularity of wokeness induced by identitarian obsession over everything. For example, this happened recently in Canada: Canada: one Indigenous group accuses other of cultural appropriation in award row

    Subtitle (not a parody):
    Inuit singers cut ties with show over nomination of Cree singer Connie LeGrande, who they say improperly uses throat singing

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 10, 2019 at 1:11 am | Permalink

      Meh. I have one comment to the Inuit – get *over* yourselves.

      If they want a part of their culture to survive they should stop acting like they own the monopoly and be pleased someone’s copied it.

      Sherlock Holmes (to take an example mentioned yesterday) didn’t become a universal meme through Conan Doyle’s heirs threatening to sue the bejezus out of anybody who mentioned his name.

      cr

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted April 10, 2019 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        Wait till the Tuvans hear about this; they’ll be all over the Inuits for monumental cultural appropriation. After all, the Tuvans are from the Old World,where it all started.

        Then there are the Sardinians, who also do throat singing. The Inuits should go after them, too — and the Okinawans.

        Speaking for myself, I’d love to learn how to do throat singing (it’s the coolest!)of any kind, and I don’t give a damn if it’s ‘culturally inappropriate’ of me to do so.

        • Posted April 10, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink

          I am not sure that the Inuit and the Tuvan practices are related. They might be – the Inuit moved into the NA arctic from Siberia – but there are no throat singers to my knowledge amongst, say, the Chukchi.

          That aside, I think the bloodline approach is wrongheaded.

          • Jenny Haniver
            Posted April 10, 2019 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

            I was being somewhat facetious because when one cries ‘cultural appropriation,’ one must be very careful, as we see from examples on this site. But I appreciate your reminder. I do find it interesting that Tuvans and Tibetans practice throat singing, and the Okinawans (at least they used to), and the Inuits, though I realize that doesn’t mean their practices developed from a common musical ancestor, and that surely couldn’t account for Sardinian throat singing. They’re all wild and beautiful and hilarious, but I think the Inuit throat singing is the craziest of all.

            Years ago, I attended a concert of Tuvan throat singers. One or two of them wore queues! This was not in the 19th century. I’d never seen the queue except in old photos.

      • Posted April 10, 2019 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        Or introduce the cultural practices as things that one can gain the right to do through *accomplishments* (rather than bloodlines). This is the thesis of Menno Boldt’s 1993 book, _Surviving as Indians_.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted April 10, 2019 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      I think there is a longstanding enmity between Inuit and Cree. The Inuit got rid of (exterminated) the Dorset people and the Norse, but not of the Cree, despite fighting numerous wars.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted April 10, 2019 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        So there’s a long and extremely fraught backstory. No wonder they’re at each other’s throats, in more ways than one. If your supposition is in play, it’s an extremely cheeky way to pique the Inuits’ ire.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I’ve no objection to Salon‘s Melanie McFarland writing a polemic of this sort — though I disagree strongly with her premise regarding Green Book — but it shouldn’t masquerade as film criticism. Cahiers du Cinéma, it ain’t.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 9, 2019 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Last night, in a special “Hollywood Classics” series at the local arthouse, I saw One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest again — based on one of my all-time favoritest novels. I read it in college in the ’70s, got it from a girlfriend for whom it was a reading assignment in an American Lit course. At the time, its author, Ken Kesey, was an icon of the type of cultural liberation prized by Leftists.

      The Salon piece quoted above about Green Book got me to thinking about what the Woke crowd would make of it today, since Kesey couldn’t have made the novel any more politically incorrect by today’s standards had he tried.

      It’s nothing if not irreverent toward the mentally ill. Its narrator is an appropriated Native-American personality. Of the few women characters in it, three — Big Nurse, Harding’s wife, and Billy Bibbit’s mother — are absolute ball-cutters, and the other two are hookers-with-hearts-of-gold. One of the crimes McMurphy is doing time for is statutory rape; he and the head psychiatrist crack a joke about it during their intake interview. The secondary villains are “the black boys.” McMurphy uses the N-word during a fistfight with one of them. And he uses the C-word on Nurse Ratched.

      No way they’re teaching that novel on any Woke campus today. Hell, they’d defenestrate it from library window faster’n you can say “Huck Finn.”

      O tempora O mores!

      • Posted April 10, 2019 at 4:34 am | Permalink

        It badly misrepresents the use of ECT too–in a way that has badly damaged the ability of psyhiatric units to use this often helpful (yep–I said that out loud in public, and I’ll back it up with stats if anyone wants to take me on) treatment that helps thousands of people a year recover from depression.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 10, 2019 at 9:17 am | Permalink

          Sure, but do you doubt that it was also subject to crude, involuntary misuse in the type of public asylums of the mid-20th century where the novel is set?

          Wonder if anyone will come forward to complain of its depiction of prefrontal lobotomies.

        • BJ
          Posted April 10, 2019 at 10:28 am | Permalink

          EXT back then and ECT today are two very, very different things. ECT back then used different waves at different intervals for longer periods and was often abused.

          Today, ECT can be an absolute lifesaver for people with major depressive disorder, but it’s very different, even if the idea is the same.

          • Nicolaas Stempels
            Posted April 10, 2019 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

            Moreover, electroshock therapy is given under general anaesthesia nowadays, and strictly voluntary, ‘informed consent’ and all that. So yes, I concur, it is very different indeed.

  6. Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Slate has become completely woke after the departure of Jacob Weisberg last year. Its new format is pure clickbait. The tease headlines are incomplete and cut off mid-sentence to invite the reader to click on the article to read the rest. Invariably, the article is woke nonsense.

  7. BJ
    Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I watched Clint Eastwood’s The Mule the other day and found it quite enjoyable and well-made. Like you, I went to look at reviews out of morbid curiosity, and found that many of them were middling. The criticism of the movie levied by the first two I clicked on randomly were basically that Eastwood’s character is an old white man and we’re expected to like and/or sympathize him, that the character is “problematic,” and that the Mexican cartel drug-runners aren’t portrayed as nice people. From the Roger Ebert review website:

    “There’s also an icky, creeping sensation of xenophobia that permeates the film. One could imagine ‘The Mule’ being used as an argument in favor of President Trump’s proposed border wall, given its tone-deaf and one-dimensional depiction of the minorities Earl encounters. Casually racist, he refers to blacks and Hispanics in good-naturedly antiquated terms. But then all the Mexicans he works for are scary, gun-toting criminals who want to bring drugs into our country, and many of them are depicted in stereotypical fashion with shaved heads and neck tats. They’re taking advantage of Earl, a hardworking Korean War veteran who’s seen the American Dream collapse beneath him.

    ‘Earl is Trump’s proverbial Forgotten Man: Elderly, white and living in the Heartland, he listens to country music and longs for a simpler time before the Internet complicated everything. He’s in your movie theater today, but you could easily imagine him on Fox News tomorrow.”

    First off, the reviewer lies. The first Mexicans we meet are hard-working, good people who help Earl on his farm. They share a great bond and all are sad that they have to leave their relationships behind because Earl’s farm is being foreclosed. The Mexicans we meet after that all work for the cartel, so of course they’re not depicted as friendly people.

    Second, I cannot figure out where this reviewer found the “creeping sensation of xenophobia.” I just can’t. In fact, the movie depicts Earl as a man out of time (as in Gran Torino: I man who’s from a different era and so old he doesn’t know that he’s sometimes saying something that’s now seen as racist. There are several scenes in the film that demonstrate the struggle of minorities in today’s US. In one scene, a man an innocent Mexican man is pulled over, and he keeps telling the police that “these are the most dangerous five minutes of my life,” while constantly telling them how scared he is. Another scene involves Earl pulling over to help a black family fix their flat tire, and when he refers to them as “negroes” (again, being unwittingly racist), they tell him outright that they don’t like being called by that word. In a third scene, two Mexicans are sitting with Earl at a restaurant and notice that all the white people are staring at them, as the restaurant’s patrons are all white and the film makes clear that this town is apparently not friendly to minorities.

    So, how did the film critic arrive at these conclusions? The only way I can figure is that she wanted to. And the fact that she thinks Earl is a representation of Trump’s America because he’s old, white, and listens to country music could not be a worse case of stereotyping rooted in political bias.

    Then, we have the Variety review, which notes in its headline’s subtitle: “From the writer of ‘Gran Torino’ comes another feelgood story of a casually racist old-timer — a problematic character that director Clint Eastwood knows exactly how to make charming.”

    It goes further, but there are too many quotes to give you here, as most of the review is about how problematic the main character is and how, by extension, the movie itself is problematic (even though it is clearly delivering a message that the reviewer doesn’t want to recognize).

    Links: https://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/the-mule-review-clint-eastwood-1203087533/

    https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-mule-2018

    • BJ
      Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      And Gran Torino could not possibly be a more heartwarming movie about a racist man who overcomes his views and decides to put his hatred behind him, comes to love the people he had learned to hate, and eventually sacrifices himself out of that love.

    • Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      … the Mexican cartel drug-runners aren’t portrayed as nice people.

      Uhh, duh. Check out MARIA FULL OF GRACE, which is also about drug mules.

      • BJ
        Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        Saw that years ago. Excellent.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      Why I maintain a strict church-state wall of separation between politics and art.

      And I agree on Maria Full of Grace. Great flick.

      • BJ
        Posted April 9, 2019 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

        I maintain that wall as well, but it seems like these reviewers intentionally misread the film and misled their audience in the name of politics. Everything must be woke. Everything must be problematic in some way.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted April 10, 2019 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

          Some films are overtly political. I accept them as that and evaluate them on those terms.

          Some films have a distinct political subtext. I accept them as that and evaluate them on those terms, too. (For that matter, to one extent or another, all films have some political subtext, I suppose.)

          But what I consciously try to avoid doing is to evaluate a film according to how well it aligns with my own politics. To do so bespeaks a lack of respect for both aesthetics and politics.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 10, 2019 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

            So where do you stand on the Alien franchise and is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted April 11, 2019 at 12:03 am | Permalink

              The first are films of female empowerment (and about how chicks look hawt with butch haircuts).

              As to the second, Merry Xmas and yippee-ki-yay, muthafuchah! 🙂

  8. CAS
    Posted April 9, 2019 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    “It’s much simpler, however, to spit-shine escapist Social Progress tales drawn from a mythologized version of history.”

    Gosh! More of the all enveloping “optimism” of the far left. Hopefully this crap will continue to reduce their following.

  9. Posted April 9, 2019 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place and commented:
    I liked the movie ‘The Green Book’ too.

  10. Posted April 9, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    So in this way “Green Book” transforms racism into something that, you know, really makes you think, something terrible happening to other people, something that’s really too bad, instead of an ever-present structure in America from which people either specifically or unwittingly benefit… It sells the idea that as long as a person doesn’t behave like a violent criminal from Sundown Town, Alabama, when confronted with a person whose skin is darker than theirs, that’s enough. The passage of time will take care of the rest….

    That’s it in a nutshell. Race-baiters and Oppression Olympics contestants like McFarland need racism to be “ever-present”, eternal, forever insurmountable, in the same way IngSoc needs perpetual war with Eurasia or Eastasia. The con game that McFarland and her ilk play is dependent on denying the reality that, by and large, the passage of time did take care of racism in the US.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 10, 2019 at 1:43 am | Permalink

      That was a totally racist comment. You referenced 1984. Are you aware that all the principal characters – every single one – in that book are White? And most of them are male. It’s as if diversity didn’t exist.

      That book also implies that there is such a thing as objective, unchanging facts, which is completely inimical to any concept of individual truth. Deplorable.

      cr
      [/sarcasm]

      • Posted April 10, 2019 at 4:44 am | Permalink

        Don’t you misgender Big Brother now…

      • Posted April 10, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        I’ve forgotten – do we know that the characters in 1984 are white?

        Somehow I am reminded of some of the humour in _Red Dwarf_ which is based on the South Asian-background guy making fun of UK snootiness and stuff.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted April 10, 2019 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

          “I’ve forgotten – do we know that the characters in 1984 are white?”

          There aren’t many named characters in Nineteen Eighty-Four, but given the times when it was written one can assume that all of them are white because they have been given very English names. That is with the exception of Emmanuel Goldstein who is clearly Jewish. Goldstein is the principal enemy of the State, is the target of the daily Two Minute Hate & may be an invention of the Ministry of Truth. The attitude of the State to Goldstein is similar to how the loony end of the far right [the conspiracy drenched element anyway] view George Soros.

          “Somehow I am reminded of some of the humour in Red Dwarf which is based on the South Asian-background guy making fun of UK snootiness & stuff”

          I assume you’re referring to the dreadlocked character Dave Lister, played by the dreadlocked Craig Charles. I think you have this wrong Lister’s taking the piss of the posh & the people who live their lives as straight arrows is from the perspective of being a car stealing, orphaned Liverpudlian – it’s Scouser ‘attitude’ & is entirely independent of ethnicity. I’ve read the books & watched the first few series & I don’t recall a reference to Lister being South Asian [Afghanistan & the Himalayas & points south].

          Incidentally Craig Charles’ parents met in Liverpool – mum being white Irish & dad a dock worker from South America [Guyana].

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 10, 2019 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

            I would guess Craig Charles’ father had African ancestry (like most ‘West Indians’ from the Caribbean). Just from his features.
            (‘South American’ usually implies Spanish/Amerind ancestry, i.e. ‘Latina’).

            But Lister is neither Asian nor Latina, he’s very much a Scouser. Also the ultimate slob, and my favourite character in the series. Which other hero on TV could you ever imagine saying “No way are these my boxer shorts. These bend!”

            cr

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted April 10, 2019 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

              I knew him on nodding terms in Liverpool ’80-’81’ before & during the Toxteth riots – pre-fame & fortune. 16/17 year old loud mouthed, funny, always broke [he said], miserly chancer. He had the dreadlocks back then too & wore camo trousers & combat jacket from the Army & Navy stores – winter & summer.

              I used to go down to the Everyman Theatre Bistro & Bar daily for cheap eats [a big single room venue with mainly vegetarian grub, cheap booze, students & artists & L/pool celebs of the music & poetry kind]. He was nearly always there scrounging & living off his wits. Being Scouse he was very good with the verbals & wrote scathing poetic ditties which was the opening to him being noticed in a room full of equally large & loud egos – liked or hated with no in between & a fool for drugs/booze. I’m impressed he’s still alive.

            • Posted April 11, 2019 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

              Yes (to this and the previous) – there is a lot of class and regionalisms too. Always a confound. As for the character’s race, who knows? I meant the idea of having the *actor* (of mixed background) doing it.

              As for slob, internet science fiction reviewer SFDebris, I think it was, calls Lister one of the great science fiction heroes – he betters himself, eventually, continues to plug on, etc. even though he is *the last human alive*. No _Star Trek_ character has ever done *that* sort of thing. Started from so little and done so much …

              Yet, he is still a slob. 🙂

  11. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 9, 2019 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, this stuff causes people not to watch the movies. I have friends who don’t want to watch it because of what they’ve read.

  12. ladyatheist
    Posted April 10, 2019 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    I visit breitbart regularly to see what news item is causing the extreme right to lose their bowels. Being outrageous is a business model. It drives traffic to the site, and they don’t care that they’re hurting the country. Being outraged is okay as long as you’re being outraged by things that are truly outrageous. I’m starting to have outrage-fatigue.

    The NYT had an article yesterday about the false impression that the Democratic Party is unified about outrage “The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate”

    “The relative moderation of Democrats who are not sharing their political thoughts on social media, and therefore of Democrats as a whole, makes it less surprising that Virginia Democrats tolerated Mr. Northam’s yearbook page. It makes it easier to imagine how Joe Biden might not merely survive questions about whether he touched women in ways that made them feel uncomfortable, but might even emerge essentially unscathed.

    It also helps explain why recent polls show that a majority of Democrats would rather see the party become more moderate than move leftward, even as progressives clamor for a Green New Deal or Medicare for all.”

    I agree with the Green New Deal, but I consider myself more centrist than the shouters. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    • ladyatheist
      Posted April 10, 2019 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      The commentary on Stacy Abrams includes these gems:

      “The only thing keeping violent, racist scum like Slimey Abrams from putting you and I in a mass grave is the very fact that we are armed. Stay that way, whitey.”

      “100 % correct. Her and her crowd will logic out our demise, the same way they do the unborn. They will have a very rational reason why it is for the best.”

      … which is why I worry more about breitbart than Huffpo.

    • Posted April 10, 2019 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Nice sleight-of-hand there by the NYT to equate moderate liberal positions with racism and sexism.

  13. Joe Dickinson
    Posted April 10, 2019 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    If you check out Dr. Shirley’s “digs” above Carneghie Hall at the beginning, it is a bit more ambiguous as to which of the two main characters is more “privileged”. It’s that sort of tension that makes this a great movie


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