The specter of the quasi-fascist narcissist looms over everything these days, even outside the U.S.--when I was recently in Rome and Calabria, discussion invariably turned to Trump (and also to the corrosive and destructive effect years and years of Berlusconi had on Italy). Nate Silver has a useful analysis of how things can, and are likely to, go awry for Trump at the convention. Unless the Repugs end up nominating Kasich, the so-called "moderate" (though he appears far to the right of Trump on some issues, assuming one can have any idea what Trump stands for), this is all good news for the Democrats. Cruz will be considerably easier to beat, even for Clinton, than Trump.
I used to endorse a particular brand of politics that is prevalent at McGill and in Montreal more widely. It is a fusion of a certain kind of anti-oppressive politics and a certain kind of radical leftist politics. This particular brand of politics begins with good intentions and noble causes, but metastasizes into a nightmare. In general, the activists involved are the nicest, most conscientious people you could hope to know. But at some point, they took a wrong turn, and their devotion to social justice led them down a dark path. Having been on both sides of the glass, I think I can bring some painful but necessary truth to light.
Important disclaimer: I passionately support anti-oppressive politics in general and have only good things to say about it.,,,
There is something dark and vaguely cultish about this particular brand of politics. I’ve thought a lot about what exactly that is. I’ve pinned down four core features that make it so disturbing: dogmatism, groupthink, a crusader mentality, and anti-intellectualism. I’ll go into detail about each one of these. The following is as much a confession as it is an admonishment. I will not mention a single sin that I have not been fully and damnably guilty of in my time.
First, dogmatism. One way to define the difference between a regular belief and a sacred belief is that people who hold sacred beliefs think it is morally wrong for anyone to question those beliefs. If someone does question those beliefs, they’re not just being stupid or even depraved, they’re actively doing violence. They might as well be kicking a puppy. When people hold sacred beliefs, there is no disagreement without animosity. In this mindset, people who disagreed with my views weren’t just wrong, they were awful people. I watched what people said closely, scanning for objectionable content. Any infraction reflected badly on your character, and too many might put you on my blacklist. Calling them ‘sacred beliefs’ is a nice way to put it. What I mean to say is that they are dogmas.
Thinking this way quickly divides the world into an ingroup and an outgroup — believers and heathens, the righteous and the wrong-teous. “I hate being around un-rad people,” a friend once texted me, infuriated with their liberal roommates. Members of the ingroup are held to the same stringent standards. Every minor heresy inches you further away from the group. People are reluctant to say that anything is too radical for fear of being been seen as too un-radical. Conversely, showing your devotion to the cause earns you respect. Groupthink becomes the modus operandi. When I was part of groups like this, everyone was on exactly the same page about a suspiciously large range of issues. Internal disagreement was rare. The insular community served as an incubator of extreme, irrational views.
...and how their convention could end (hopefully!) in chaos. Note this article was written before Rubio dropped out, so there are now even more "unbound" delgates going in. (Eric Schliesser points out, correctly, that Rubio has only "suspended" his campaign, so his delegates are not, yet anyway, "unbound." Suspension allows Rubio to finish paying off campaign debts, among other things, and may give him some leverage at the convention.)
The 2016 election is shaping up as payback time in our crippled democracy. The people have discovered ways to express their long-smoldering contempt for the regular order. Power politics, they discover, can be both mischievously fun and also purposeful.
Bernie Sanders delivered that uplifting message again with his upset victory in the Michigan primary. The press had been hinting crudely that Senator Sanders should really give it up, so Hillary Clinton could proceed unblemished to the nomination. Bernie wisely ignored the media dopesters.
As I wrote a few months ago, Donald Trump has taken the low road to political upheaval, while Senator Sanders has taken the high road to peaceful revolution. But both candidates are addressing many of the same fundamental wounds and inequities that working Americans have experienced for a generation. Trump is foul and unfair, a shrewd demagogue. Bernie is the honest visionary, urging young people to take themselves seriously as citizens and claim their role in a “political revolution.”
Trump and Sanders are forcing the political system to confront some malignant deformities in American life that both parties have tried to ignore, because, in their different ways, both are to blame. People feel betrayed, abandoned by representative democracy in favor of powerful interests.
[W]orking-class white people who make up the bulk of Trump’s fan base show up in amazing numbers for the candidate, filling stadiums and airport hangars, but their views, by and large, do not appear in our prestige newspapers. On their opinion pages, these publications take care to represent demographic categories of nearly every kind, but “blue-collar” is one they persistently overlook. The views of working-class people are so foreign to that universe that when New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wanted to “engage” a Trump supporter last week, he made one up, along with this imaginary person’s responses to his questions....
Last week, I decided to watch several hours of Trump speeches for myself. I saw the man ramble and boast and threaten and even seem to gloat when protesters were ejected from the arenas in which he spoke. I was disgusted by these things, as I have been disgusted by Trump for 20 years. But I also noticed something surprising. In each of the speeches I watched, Trump spent a good part of his time talking about an entirely legitimate issue, one that could even be called left-wing.
Yes, Donald Trump talked about trade. In fact, to judge by how much time he spent talking about it, trade may be his single biggest concern – not white supremacy...
It seems to obsess him: the destructive free-trade deals our leaders have made, the many companies that have moved their production facilities to other lands, the phone calls he will make to those companies’ CEOs in order to threaten them with steep tariffs unless they move back to the US.
Trump embellished this vision with another favorite left-wing idea: under his leadership, the government would “start competitive bidding in the drug industry.” (“We don’t competitively bid!” he marveled – another true fact, a legendary boondoggle brought to you by the George W Bush administration.) Trump extended the critique to the military-industrial complex, describing how the government is forced to buy lousy but expensive airplanes thanks to the power of industry lobbyists....
Trade is an issue that polarizes Americans by socio-economic status. To the professional class, which encompasses the vast majority of our media figures, economists, Washington officials and Democratic power brokers, what they call “free trade” is something so obviously good and noble it doesn’t require explanation or inquiry or even thought. Republican and Democratic leaders alike agree on this, and no amount of facts can move them from their Econ 101 dream.
To the remaining 80 or 90% of America, trade means something very different. There’s a video going around on the internet these days that shows a room full of workers at a Carrier air conditioning plant in Indiana being told by an officer of the company that the factory is being moved to Monterrey, Mexico and that they’re all going to lose their jobs.
As I watched it, I thought of all the arguments over trade that we’ve had in this country since the early 1990s, all the sweet words from our economists about the scientifically proven benevolence of free trade, all the ways in which our newspapers mock people who say that treaties like the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement allow companies to move jobs to Mexico.
Here, including ads and text. Some of the ads could be borrowed verbatim by the Democrats come the fall, but others just make clear that the likely nominee of the Republican Party has a long history of liberal positions, which might turn off the increasingly mythical "conservative" voters, but won't matter to many of those turning out to vote for him.
College-educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. Now they are being made to pay. Their duplicity—embodied in politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama—succeeded for decades. These elites, many from East Coast Ivy League schools, spoke the language of values—civility, inclusivity, a condemnation of overt racism and bigotry, a concern for the middle class—while thrusting a knife into the back of the underclass for their corporate masters. This game has ended.
There are tens of millions of Americans, especially lower-class whites, rightfully enraged at what has been done to them, their families and their communities. They have risen up to reject the neoliberal policies and political correctness imposed on them by college-educated elites from both political parties: Lower-class whites are embracing an American fascism....
The Democrats are playing a very dangerous game by anointing Hillary Clinton as their presidential candidate. She epitomizes the double-dealing of the college-educated elites, those who speak the feel-your-pain language of ordinary men and women, who hold up the bible of political correctness, while selling out the poor and the working class to corporate power.
The Republicans, energized by America’s reality-star version of Il Duce, Donald Trump, have been pulling in voters, especially new voters, while the Democrats are well below the voter turnouts for 2008. In the voting Tuesday, 5.6 million votes were cast for the Democrats while 8.3 million went to the Republicans. Those numbers were virtually reversed in 2008—8.2 million for the Democrats and about 5 million for the Republicans....
Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, which we knew after her landslide victory in South Carolina and her respectable victory in Nevada. The problem facing Bernie Sanders is pretty simple: African-Americans are not voting for him in meaningful numbers. Clinton won by lopsided margins in all the Southern states (Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Virginia), and also squeaked out a victory in Massachussetts. Sanders carried his home state, Vermont, by a landslide, but much more interestingly won by sizeable margins in Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Colorado; neither Colorado nor Minnesota has a large African-American population, but Colorado has many Hispanics, who, as Nevada showed, are more receptive to Sanders (I don't know the demographic on Oklahoma, but I believe it is also a fairly white state). I expect him to carry on perhaps through the convention, thus pushing Clinton to the left.
Meanwhile, in Mordor: despite being the frontrunner since forever now, Trump still can't get Republican primary voters to rally to him. Although he won seven states (Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Massachussetts, Virginia, Vermont), in all but Alabama and Massachussetts (!), the next two highest vote getters got more votes than he did; indeed, Trump won three states by slender margins: Arkansas (Cruz was a close second), Virginia (Rubio), and Vermont (Kasich). In no state did he command a majority. Cruz won Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska, and Rubio won Minnesota. Kasich and Carson continue to siphon Republican votes away for no discernible purpose.
I think all Democratic and civilized voters should throw their support behind Ted Cruz at this point: unlike Trump, he has no prospect of appealing to so-called "moderate" or "independent" voters in a general election, and will be much easier for Clinton to defeat. And if he and Rubio stay in this, they may yet deprive Trump of a clear win in the delegate count come the convention, at which point the "Establishment" will block Trump (though doing so will also cost them the general election happily, as mad Trump voters either stay home or vote for him a third party candidate).
Comments are open for any thoughts from readers on this on-going circus.
ADDENDUM: This is a pretty useful analysis of how Trump under-performed expectations on Super Tuesday, and also why he will still be destroyed, if not in the nomination fight, then in the general election.
[I]t was someone in the faculty senate and not the university that offered the advice to UH faculty that you linked to this morning. I’m certainly no fan of the new law—it’s absurd. But I also think that some of the fear-mongering of my colleagues goes too far (a class in statistical fallacies might be in order for those who think the new law gives them reason to change their curriculum—I say this as someone who teaches an intro to ethics course that’s basically designed around the idea that many of the things that we value the most are worthless). I am far less concerned about the students who will wait until 8/1 to carry a concealed handgun on campus than I am of the ones who are probably already carrying.
Predictably, I suppose, some pontificators on social media are mystified that the irresponsible APA statement could be at all controversial. Indeed, philosopher Jenny Saul (Sheffield) has reiterated her view that controversy about the statement reflects badly on the state of the profession. My view is, unsurprisingly, different: the absence of controversy in certain parts of academic philosophy is what suggests the "profession" is populated with people who are not really grown up. The deficiencies of the APA statement are so obvious that it should hardly be surprising that, for example, no group of academic lawyers has promulgated a statement so ridiculous.
Let us recall what the statement said--not regarding the criminal threats and racist abuse suffered by Prof. Yancy--but regarding the lawful anonymous speech on metablogs:
Abusive speech directed at philosophers is not limited to responses by the public to published op-eds. A look at some of the anonymous philosophy blogs also reveals a host of examples of abusive speech by philosophers directed against other philosophers. Disagreement is fine and is not the issue. But bullying and ad hominem harassment of philosophers by other philosophers undermines civil disagreement and discourse and has no place in our community.
I'm not entirely sure why the statement targets anonymous speech, since it seems to me there are many possible examples of speech that runs afoul of the APA statement that was not anonymous. But they all raise the question: what exactly is the "abusive speech" that is now according to a handful of philosophers at the APA forbidden? Consider:
1. Philosopher Rachel McKinnon (Charleston) launched a Twitter tirade against Justin Weinberg (South Carolina), because he had linked to a part of a discussion by Leslie Green (Oxford) of whether Germaine Greer was correct about transgender women. Prof. McKinnon wrote, inter alia, that those she attacked should "suck it up, buttercup," and proudly proclaimed "we're not polite" after denouncing Weinberg for having "fuck[ed] up just now." Indeed, she regularly calls her opponents "philosophy asshat," "fuckwhistles" and tells them to "shut the fuck up" and "fuck off." Surely this speech violate the APA's new policy! If so, what is the APA going to do about it?
2. I have, on multiple occasions, made harsh criticisms of anti-gay bigotry in the philosophy profession, for example, here, here, and here. Does this speech violate the APA's new policy? (Admittedly, if it does, the APA can't do anything about it, since I am not a member.)
3. After I criticized a badly reasoned opinion piece co-authored by Jason Stanley (Yale), he denounced me on his very public Facebook page before hundreds if not thousands of my colleagues, dismissing me as "old, dated, shrill, and frightened." This certainly sounds like ad hominem abuse (though admittedly it did lead dozens of philosophers to friend me on Facebook!). Does this volate the APA's new policy on speech? If not, why not?
My own view is that (a) all of this speech ought to be legal; and (b) none of it should be the object of sanction or opporobium by a purportedly professional organization. Yet all of it appears to fall within the scope of the APA's careless statement. And the reason why professionals in other fields, especially law, don't promulgate statements like this is precisely because such standards are vague and overbroad and thus inconsistent with the values of freedom of expression central to all intellectual and political life. That the APA has been captured by some academics who don't see this should be a cause for concern.
In light of Trump's surprisingly strong showing in a caucus state (Nevada), I think the prospect of his getting the Republican nomination is now very real. It is true I endorsed him early on for this "honor," but the fact that two-thirds of Republican voters overall have continued to prefer someone else (for more than six months now) seemed like it should cause a problem. Unfortunately, the Republican primary system is designed to produce a winner fairly quickly, even in a field where one candidate can't command a majority of the support. Here Trump has been greatly helped by the large field of competitors who have divided the vote. Rubio--whose substantive policy positions are basically the usual insane Republican fare--has failed to win a single contest to date; unless the "anyone but Trump" vote coalesces around him soon (i.e., by next Tuesday, when there are eight primaries!), one wonders how much longer the "big money" will back him. Cruz is simply too much of a narcissistic sociopath--on a par with Trump, though Trump is less of a sociopath--to drop out, especially since he's actually won a primary (Iowa). Of course, if Rubio and Cruz stay in the race to the end, they and others might well have enough delegates to stop Trump at the convention, if they can actually agree on who will get the nod (which seems doubtful).
This means the next exciting issue will be whom Trump chooses as a running mate. I'm guessing it will be one of his sons.
It's hard to know what to think of this piece: does Prof. Allen really think the Republican Presidential contenders are waiting for her advice? And how seriously should one take advice from someone who thinks it obvious that Rubio is preferable to Trump? Has she looked at Rubio's actual positions? Rhetorically, the piece is poorly done--one can't start with a Hitler comparison, and then disavow whether it is relevant!
(Thanks to Mark Murphy and John Schwenkler for pointers.)
UPDATE: Via Prof. Schwenkler in the comments, a statement of protest (well-written, and with links to useful background information). Please sign, with title and institutional affiliation, so that at least the Board of Trustees at this institution can get a sense for the depth and breadth of concern about this.
My source in Turkey (who, for obvious reasons, does not want to be identified) writes:
We have some more horrible news. One of Boğaziçi's undergraduate philosophy students, Jülide Yazıcı, was arrested, along with 3 other students, and has apparently already been charged with the extremely serious charge of "being a member of a terrorist organisation". She had been posting in support of faculty under attack.
I'm trying to find out more about the other 2 students. One of them is from Bilgi University, the other one is from Bogazici too, named Heja Türk; nephew of Ahmet Türk, one of the most famous Kurdish politicians.
6 were detained in a police operation involving house raids in İstanbul two days ago. Out of the detainees, 4 students were arrested with charges of “being a member of a terrorist organization” and “making terrorist propaganda”. The names and affiliations of those arrested are as follows: -Jülide Yazıcı, Boğaziçi University Philosophy Undergraduate Student. She lately supported a petition in Philosophy Department to support 'Academics for Peace'. -Heja Türk, Boğaziçi University, Western Languages and Literature Graduate -Mehtap Demirci -Çağrı Kurt, Bilgi University, Political Science
I believe all 4 are still in custody.
Comments are open for more information and links.
UPDATE: More information here and commentary here.
A philosophy professor will be put on trial. Note that under Turkish law, insulting the President is an actionable offense. It is the law, and not necessarily its application in this instance, that is rotten.
UPDATE: A philosopher in Turkey writes: "I think it might be worth pointing out that Orsan is an important part of Turkish philosophical community - being the person behind 'Philosophy in Assos'": http://www.philosophyinassos.org/assos.htm. These events are an important part of Turkish philosophical calendar. Ironically he was supposed to be giving lecture in Assos on 'Freedom, Justice and Courage' and I think this falls on the day they set for his Trial."
Marvin Krislov, the president, said that while some of the demands "resonate with me and many members of our community, including our trustees," he would not respond directly to the proposals from black students, which were termed non-negotiable.
"[S]ome of the solutions it proposes are deeply troubling," Krislov wrote in a response posted on Oberlin's website. "I will not respond directly to any document that explicitly rejects the notion of collaborative engagement. Many of its demands contravene principles of shared governance. And it contains personal attacks on a number of faculty and staff members who are dedicated and valued members of this community."
The 14-page list of demands at Oberlin was detailed and contained many controversial items. Among other things, it demanded the immediate firing of some Oberlin employees, the immediate tenuring of some faculty members, specific curricular changes, a review and possible revision of the grading system (to be overseen by students), the creation of "safe spaces" for black students in at least three buildings on campus, the creation of a program to enroll recently released prisoners from a nearby prison as undergraduates, divestment from Israel, and a requirement that black student leaders be paid $8.20 an hour for their organizing efforts.
The students also demanded changes at Oberlin's noted conservatory. For instance, the list of demands said that students should not be required to take "heavily based classical courses that have minimal relevance to their jazz interests." Stating that classical music students are not required to study jazz, the list of demands says that students of jazz "should not be forced to take courses rooted in whiteness."
As we noted in December, the Oberlin student "demands" set a new low for their unreasonableness, demanding actions that were plainly illegal. It's a oood thing the President drew a firm line on this nonsense.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)