[caption id="attachment_19464" align="alignright" width="300"] Source: (Hitler) By Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-10460 / Hoffmann, Heinrich / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, (Trump) By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0[/caption] The comparisons between President Trump and Adolf Hitler are multiplying. Somehow, this week, the President’s stupid and mean and racially charged calling of certain poor countries with black populations “shitholes” has re-energized those who see the President as an authoritarian and totalitarian rule. This despite the fact that the entire political establishment—federal and local as well as Democrat and Republican—repudiated Trump’s remarks. Corey Robin does some empirical history to remind us of the vast differences between one year of Trump and one year of Hitler.
“Many of Hitler’s opponents did initially dismiss him as a buffoon. But one year into power? They either were dead, in concentration camps or running for their lives. Ironically, in the same article, Yglesias offers an excellent if unintentional rebuttal to his own analogy: Public opinion polling suggests that the merged Trump-establishment party is hideously unpopular and headed for electoral defeat. If that happens and Democrats gain control of at least one house of Congress, then the system of checks and balances will begin to operate as designed.” Imagine a comparable passage in January 1934, one year into Hitler’s reign of terror. It only works as satire or science fiction. As soon as Trump became a serious contender for the presidency, journalists and historians began analogizing him to Hitler. Even the formulator of Godwin’s Law, which was meant to put a check on the reductio ad Hitlerum, said: “Go ahead and refer to Hitler when you talk about Trump.” After Trump’s election, the comparisons mounted, for understandable reasons. But as we approach the end of Trump’s first year in power, the Hitler analogies seem murky and puzzling, less metaphor than mood. Just consider that this was a year that saw:Form more information visit: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2018/jan/13/american-democracy-peril-trump-power
Perhaps some literalness is in order. On 19 January 1934, the 354th day of Hitler’s reign, the Nazi regime closed the Kemna concentration camp, where anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000 political prisoners – most of them Communists, Socialists, and trade unionists – had been held and tortured (the press spoke obliquely of “enhanced interrogations”) for months. People could hear the prisoners’ screams from almost a half-mile away. The prisoners were moved to other concentration camps. On 9 January 2018, the 354th day of Trump’s reign, the president was anxiously monitoring news of a best-selling book – filled with leaks from his own top advisers, testifying to the addled state of his mind and rule – hoping against hope to stop any and all discussion of his fitness for office. Trump’s lawyers had already tried to force the book’s publisher and author to cease publication, issue a retraction, and apologize. Their reply? We “do not intend to cease publication, no such retraction will occur, and no apology is warranted”.”
- The opposition party win important by-elections in two southern states.
- A media more independent and critical of the administration than at any point in the last quarter-century (especially compared to the Bush years, which posed a far more severe threat to freedom of the press).
- Continuous scrutiny and challenge from the courts.
- A relatively novel willingness by a unified Democratic party to oppose the Republicans.
- Blistering defeats for the president, his party, and the broader right-wing movement.
- An increasingly high number of Republican retirements in Congress, creating the possibility of a Democratic takeover of the House in 2018.
“Funny things are often mean,” writes Titus Techera. This means that comedy is threatened when we can’t laugh at our own or others’ expense. Techera respects what he calls the “agony of comedy,” which reveals to ourselves that fact that we are both “more noble and more contemptible than we are supposed to be.” Comedy attacks our pride and our hypocrisy. It reminds us all of our human foibles. But in a hyper-partisan age, comedy is in danger of taking sides and losing its humanity. Which is why Techera applauds the new comedy special by Dave Chappelle; Techera argues that Chappelle’s comedy is important because it tells ugly truths.
“Dave Chappelle starts his new Netflix comedy special, The Bird Revelation, with a brief statement of the problem of democracy. Funny things are often mean, and everything’s funny until it happens to you. It’s hard to have comedy anymore for that reason. We cannot bear the thought that the public would like to humiliate us. The problem is not one comedian who says something nasty — it’s how many people spontaneously laugh, and thereby reveal that they take pleasure in our humiliation. That makes us lonely, which is hard to bear. Jokes are inevitably at someone’s expense, and we the people cannot tolerate to be laughed at. We live with this fear of public humiliation, and our nice, inclusive public life is all about avoiding giving and taking offense, which ends up killing comedy, albeit unwittingly. This is because we take insult at so many things directed not at us personally but at any number of more or less abstract group identities. We become outraged early and often these days, and that reveals, behind the labels and categories of politics, our existential fears and a deeply personal sense of shame. Comedy becomes a mere weapon of partisanship. This is because the primary way we take responsibility for public things is to divide them up into partisan camps where people have to be nice to each other, savage to the other camp. You can humiliate people of the other party, but not of your own. We split human nature into parts we like and parts we don’t — and then congratulate ourselves for perpetrating this mutilation! But of course comedy is part of our nature, just like indignation, and it should give us a self-understanding broader than mere partisanship. For that’s what lies behind the enthusiasm and hysteria of politics: human nature, the one thing that cannot be discussed in public in America. But we all know it is there and we know that we cannot remove from our nature our awareness that we constantly, inevitably, do and say crazy and stupid things, often without realizing it. That flaw is part of our nature, and so is the knowledge of it. We are defined by knowing how ridiculous we can be. Once you see this, you begin to suspect that we organize a lot of partisanship just to be able to acknowledge, without feeling ashamed of ourselves, the crazy built into human nature — it’s only the other party who is flawed and laughable…. So listen to Chappelle, because he gives you ugly truths with every laugh, and that is true morality — the things you admit are true against your own vanity or self-righteousness. He tells you, yes, that Martin Luther King Jr. had affairs with women and was immoral — but he was also a moral and political hero, and better than the people, liberal and conservative, who wanted to bring him down by spying on his sexual misconduct. Maybe it’s not an accident that he was also the last political champion of natural rights. Yes, liberals want progress, but they also have to learn to stop fainting like fainting goats. It’s bad for them and bad for America and bad for comedy, because you can’t laugh if you’re busy throwing fits.”Form more information visit: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/455153/dave-chappelle-bird-revelation-telling-ugly-truths
Making Us Dumber
[caption id="attachment_19473" align="alignright" width="225"] By Steven Pinker - Rebecca Goldstein, CC BY-SA 3.0[/caption] Jesse Singal writes about the viral video that appears to show Steven Pinker praising racists. It was misleading. For Singal, this is further evidence of how social media is making us dumb.
“This week, a video surfaced of a Harvard professor, Steven Pinker, which appeared to show him lauding members of a racist movement. The clip, which was pulled from a November event at Harvard put on by Spiked magazine, showed Mr. Pinker referring to “the often highly literate, highly intelligent people who gravitate to the alt-right” and calling them “internet savvy” and “media savvy.” The clip went viral. The right celebrated; the left fumed. The neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website ran an article headlined, in part, “Harvard Jew Professor Admits the Alt-Right Is Right About Everything.” A tweet of the video published by the self-described “Right-Wing Rabble-Rouser” Alex Witoslawski got hundreds of retweets, including one from the white-nationalist leader Richard Spencer. “Steven Pinker has long been a darling of the white supremacist ‘alt-right,’” noted the lefty journalist Ben Norton. “And he returns the favor.” Others reacted to the rumor with simple exasperation: “Christ on a crutch,” said the liberal commentator and biologist PZ Myers, who also wrote a blog post denouncing Mr. Pinker for this supposed alliance. The idea that Mr. Pinker, a liberal, Jewish psychology professor, is a fan of a racist, anti-Semitic online movement is absurd on its face, so it might be tempting to roll your eyes and dismiss this blowup as just another instance of social media doing what it does best: generating outrage. But it’s actually a worthwhile episode to unpack, because it highlights a disturbing, worsening tendency in social media in which tribal allegiances are replacing shared empirical understandings of the world. Or maybe “subtribal” is the more precise, fitting term to use here. It’s one thing to say that left and right disagree on simple facts about the world — this sort of informational Balkanization has been going on for a while and long predates Twitter. What social media is doing is slicing the salami thinner and thinner, as it were, making it harder even for people who are otherwise in general ideological agreement to agree on basic facts about news events. That’s because the pernicious social dynamics of these online spaces hammer home the idea that anyone who disagrees with you on any controversial subject, even a little bit, is incorrigibly dumb or evil or suspect. On a wide and expanding range of issues, there’s no such thing as good-faith disagreement. The online anger aimed at Mr. Pinker provides a perfect case study. The clip was deeply misleading. If you watch the whole eight-minute video from which it was culled, it’s clear that Mr. Pinker’s entire point is that the alt-right’s beliefs are false and illogical — but that the left needs to do a better job fighting against them.”Form more information visit: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/11/opinion/social-media-dumber-steven-pinker.html