Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Thoughtcrime. Plus: The Veepstakes

I urge you to read this important piece by Matthew Yglesias about David Shor, a progressive data analyst who sent a tweet wrongly considered controversial.

Basically, Shor compiled data indicating that, in the wake of the George Floyd killing, peaceful protests would help the Democrats while violent riots would help Trump. In part, his analysis drew from previous work done on the impact of the 1968 riots which broke out after the murder of Martin Luther King. In that year, the violence alienated enough voters to insure Richard Nixon's victory in a tight election.

(Shor did not mention that those riots led to "white flight," which severely damaged the tax base in several cities -- including my adopted hometown of Baltimore. A black acquaintance told me that memories of '68 explain why the Freddie Grey "uprising" -- if you can call it that -- petered out so rapidly.)

Progressives piled on Shor, calling him a racist because he dared to offer unwelcome data. Example:
Yo. Minimizing black grief and rage to "bad campaign tactic for the Democrats" is bullshit most days, but this week is absolutely cruel. This take is tone deaf, removes responsibility for depressed turnout from the 68 Party and reeks of anti-blackness.
How the hell is it anti-Black to be concerned about re-electing Trump? This tweet reeks of pro-Putin ratfuckery. I strongly doubt that the writer speaks for all or most black people.

I will never comprehend how any black person can read this story and still insist that defeating Trump is relatively unimportant.

Actually, the writer of the above-quoted tweet has something in common with Donald Trump: They both want unwelcome data to remain hidden. Trump asked for less Covid testing, on the theory that fewer tests would somehow results in fewer cases. Unfortunately, placing the numbers behind a veil did not change the spread of the disease. Similarly, hiding Shor's data won't make that data wrong.

Bottom line: After the online kangaroo courts had pronounced him racist, Shor was fired -- even after he recited one of those humiliating forced apologies that used to be characteristic of the USSR. That cowardly act is the only point on which Shor deserves criticism. I would never have said "I'm sorry" under those circumstances, not even if someone literally held a gun to my head.
A former staffer for Bernie Sanders responded to Shor’s tweet on Progressphiles to say “we need to recognize the role data plays in this conversation.” And in particular, “using it to dictate how BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] should feel and protest is harmful.”

Shor did not say that protesting is harmful; he said that rioting is harmful. And he didn’t say that data should dictate how people feel. And while one data scientist’s tweet of one political science paper should not be the last word on social movement tactics, the reasonable response to Shor would be to counter with some other form of evidence. Instead, the dialogue followed a pattern in progressive circles that often involves making evidence-free assertions about how members of various groups feel.
Something similar happened to Michael Moore after he warned that Biden could lose in 2020. Instead of countering his argument with evidence, progressives labeled him a defeatist -- a thought-criminal. Progs are also angry at him because he dared to make a deeply pessimistic film about the environmental crisis.

The left demands slap-happy optimism. The left has become Billy Mumy in that old Twilight Zone episode, forever insisting that everyone around him must say positive things: "That was a good thing you did. And it's good that you're making it snow. It's real good. And tomorrow's going to be a real good day!"

Left-wing censors have even gone after Noam Chomsky, who is now considered a reactionary. Yes: Noam fucking Chomsky. His thoughtcrime: Daring to sign the same letter that J.K. Rowling endorsed. He's also a noted opponent of postmodernism, the official religion of the left.

I myself have been banned permanently from Democratic Underground and other forums because I refuse to feign an optimism that was never part of my character.

(I've always been this way. Remember that scene in Apollo 13 when the returning spacecraft fell out of communication as it passed through the ionosphere? That really happened. At the time, I kept telling my family: "They're dead! They're all crispy critters. It's over. They're dead!" When the blackout period lasted nearly two minutes longer than predicted, I was almost giddy: "I TOLD YOU SO! THEY'RE ALL DEAD! DEAADDDD!!!")

(No, I didn't have many friends.)

My specific offense at DU was submitting a post which outlined my "Big Smear" theory. Could that theory be wrong? Of course. (You could have knocked me over with a feather when my Apollo 13 prediction turned out to be a bit off the mark.) But it is absurd to argue that airing that theory could in any way damage Joe Biden's chances. It's not as though saying "Trump will smear Biden" is controversial. It's certainly not the same thing as saying "Biden deserves to be smeared."

I have no problem with the person who says "Cannon, you're wrong -- and here's why." In fact, I welcome that response. As Churchill once said: "I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught."

But the practitioners of "cancel culture" have nothing to teach anyone.

It is time to cancel the cancelers. They overestimate their power.

The Veepstakes.
Most people misinterpreted Biden's notes to himself, which were caught on camera. If you look at the entire page, he clearly was not listing Kamala Harris' virtues as a vice presidential candidate. The purpose of those notes was to remind him how to respond if journalists ask about her -- and about other topics.

Joe Biden understands, finally, that he needs to stick to a script -- because when he goes off-script, he becomes his own worst enemy. Those notes are his script.

I still think that he'll choose Tammy Duckworth. My personal choice would of course be Elizabeth Warren, but I doubt that Biden would agree.

Harris? No. I love her for this,

First: She would be more effective as Attorney General. Wouldn't you love to see her go after her predecessor? And against the Trump crime family? She would be a monster in that role.

Choosing her as VP would mean endless arguments over busing and reparations. I doubt that she favors reparations in her heart, but during the primary battle she was forced to make a few vaguely pro-reparations noises. Both busing and reparations are unpopular -- and as I keep trying to remind everyone, elections are a popularity contest.

Besides, Harris isn't terribly popular with African Americans. They had their chance to vote for her, and they went shopping elsewhere.

We've been hearing a lot about Susan Rice lately, and she has much to recommend her. She's brilliant. She's dedicated. She can do the job. She and Biden are friends and former co-workers. Apparently, they see eye-to-eye on foreign policy, which is Biden's truest passion.

But consider the drawbacks: Rice has never held elective office. She has never debated. There is no evidence that she can ignite a popular following.

However, there is evidence that she would energize a populist resistance. Choosing Rice would mean an endless rehash of BENGHAAAAAAAZEEEEEE!!!! Even though she did nothing wrong, the prospect of revisiting that tiresome pseudo-controversy is depressing.

On the other hand, maybe the public is as sick of BENGHAAAAAAAZEEEEEE as I am. I doubt that the majority of Americans believe in the weirdo Benghazi conspiracy theories that the rightwingers have been peddling for what seems like the past 500 years.

My bottom line is this: After the Big Smear hits, the Veep candidate may suddenly become the candidate. I can't see Rice playing that role. I can't see many people voting for her, though quite a few would still vote against Trump.

Duckworth? Yeah. She's a hero. A lot of people would vote for her.

Better still: Warren.


Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

Oh, I don't deny that the Treason Party and its Russian masters may fabricate a Big Smear.

I just don't think it stands much chance of overcoming the unpopularity of Trump's running mate.

No, not Pence.

Benedict Donald's ACTUAL running mate.

The Thumpingly Average White Folks of Real Amurka will NOT have the luxury of focusing on the bullshit "Culture Wars" this time.

joseph said...

My problem with Harris is that if she's the nominee we're going to hear about her relationship with Willie Brown ad nauseam. How does she complain about sexual harassment when that's how she got to where she is?

Anonymous said...

Group Think is always a problem, and the current varieties seem so toxic, tightly packed and belligerent. All of the right and increasing areas of the left reek of ratfuck.

And now we have Michael Moore. I won’t speculate on what has gone wrong with him. But something has and the demonstration of that sad conclusion is that he now sounds like a shill for the oil industry and the Koch-funded astroturf empire. Here’s a link:

Anyone who wonders where Moore’s supposedly “new arguments,” but actually old and predictable, come from and why they deserve no consideration should read “Merchants of Doubt,” the book by the historians of science, Erik M. Conway and Naomi Oreskes.

“Merchants of Doubt” is an encyclopedia of modern sophistry. It catalogs the lies, the generally dishonesty, the anti-science (anti-Enlightenment, shall we agree? But of the right wing direction) mindset promulgated and the tactics of personal destruction aimed at scientists by assholes who are, or are employed by the filthy rich, and who care about nothing other than maintaining exactly that income stream.

These “arguments,” which are stalling tactics are designed to demoralize the environmentalists and waste time and effort. Oh, and keep ExxonMobil and their main PR operative Charlie Koch obscenely rich, and evermore so every year.

Joseph Cannon said...

I'll have to see Moore's movie to judge it fairly. My expectations are not high. I advocate alternative energy schemes (solar, wind, hydrogen), and I doubt that Moore will budge me from this position. That said:

1. I do not think Moore should be "canceled." He should be countered factually, the same way (for example) I did when I argued against the nonsensical-but-popular film "Zeitgeist."

2. There has been a small, little-recognized strain of climate change denialism within the far left. One of my readers is of this persuasion, or at least he was.

3. I agree with Moore about population control. This is not a topic I've researched as I ought to have done, but instinctively, I've come to feel that this planet just can't carry so many people.

The population has more than doubled within my lifetime. That's terrifying.

The problem with any discussion of population control is that it cues the Alex Jonesians to fire up their familiar wacko theories about mass-murdering Illuminati. Look, I don't advocate any "Thanos" solutions -- I just think that maybe free birth control is a good idea. (As many have pointed out, the Thanos "snap" was a temporary fix; after a couple of generations have passed, the problem will arise again. The only permanent fix is birth control.)

And yeah, birth control efforts must concentrate on areas of the world where the population is growing the fastest (and let's all shout a hearty "fuck you" to any postemodernist race-obsessive who tells us otherwise). Free birth control will strengthen, not weaken, what is called the Third World. Prosperity comes when population and resources find the right balance.

Anonymous said...

Joseph, appreciate your comments.

First off, The population disaster has gone on for so many decades that many seem to have let it be forgotten. But it is a terrible blight on humanity and the planet.

The old left never thought of the environment at all in terms different from the captains of industry, the environment was a source of raw materials to be exploited, and a dumping ground for waste. So if I were to speculate, this is probably where Michael Moore is coming from.

Of course one needs to see a movie to really judge it fairly. But when the material quoted from it, and the friends it attracts on comment threads, such as at The Gaurdian, are so consistently of a piece in making the movie look dishonest and slipshod at best... Well I say that at my age, I have better things to do. When I was younger, I did go to such things, and what I found over time is that the arguments are always chosen from an oddly small number of possible bad arguments.

One example. I gather that at some point, the Chevy Volt electric vehicle with gas backup is held up to ridicule because someone in Michigan is buying it and plugging it into a fossil fuel power source. Hint: It is still a more efficient vehicle than gas only.

Now I happen to have gotten a Volt new in 2013. Arithmetic suggested that it would be a good idea. Especially since I was putting up solar panels, because, again, arithmetic (which worked out very well). At the time, I noticed what I now recognize as the usual routine expression of right wing hatred for the Volt.

Here's my proposed explanation for the hatred:
Previous to the electric car, I filled a 16 gallon gas tank every two weeks or so.

With the Volt and the solar panels, I put one or two gallons in every two or three MONTHS (unless a trip takes us beyond the 38 mile range of the battery).

This has been happily going on for seven years, with not a moment's trouble. A sweet car with a sweet setup, and since then solar panels have only gotten more efficient and cheaper.

And now some guy comes out with a movie, with Michael Moore as Executive Producer, that supposedly shows that solar panels do not produce significant net power, etc and I'm supposed to pay attention to him for what reason?