Thursday, April 27, 2017

So What's The Point Of Talking?

If Speech is Violent, What Next?

In the aftermath of the infamous Battle for Berkeley, the subsequent debacle surrounding Ann Coulter’s invitation to the University of California’s flagship campus, not to mention the attempted infidel-stoning of Charles Murray at Middlebury and the rioting that forced Heather Mac Donald to speak to a mostly empty room at Claremont McKenna College, defenders of this kind of campus illiberalism have taken to offering a single defense of this behavior. The argument, in sum, is the use of violent tactics is justified against certain types of speech, because those types of speech harm certain people and thus are inherently violent. In short, words we deem “hate speech” are violent, so why not use force to shut them down?

The key point has been made: the premise that speech is violence is not merely unsupportable at a philosophical level, but also at a practical one. It is an invitation not so much to the tragedy of totalitarian thought control as to simply a thoughtless, wordless, brainless farce.

Now, any number of sober commentators across the political spectrum have pointed out the alarming implications of this doctrine, which they characterize (correctly) as an invitation to totalitarianism. Thus, the most common response to the “speech is violent” canard appears to be an obsessive effort at proving that it isn’t true, and never will be true, because if it were true, it would be too horrible to think of the implications.

While I obviously appreciate these efforts at disproving this preposterous and poisonous notion of speech-as-violence, it seems to me they too often put those of us defending the old Western tradition of free speech on the back foot. If we are too afraid to go beyond refutation, we miss out on an entire class of arguments that could very easily make the speech-equals-violence idea unattractive not merely to those who already fear its implications, but even to some of those who might otherwise be open to it.

Only those of us on the Right can force the Left to confront the truly asinine consequences of this idea, because as of now, only we are capable of the kind of rigorous analysis that would reveal those consequences. One of the key weaknesses of the Left, especially in its modern form, is its utter incapacity for systemic thinking. After all, systems are cold and mean, and having to think in their terms often silences the “marginalized voices” of over-emotional intellectual weaklings. If you actually do apply the logic of a system to the argument that speech is violence, however, you run up against the fact that this doctrine not only prevents speech by politically disfavored groups: it arguably prevents speech altogether.

To demonstrate this, let us assume that certain forms of speech are, in fact, violent. If that is the case, then it would seem to follow that the principles our society uses to deal with physical violence should also be applicable to verbal violence.

One of those principles is the idea of proportionality, and of degrees of harm. For example, if someone pinches you, it’s generally considered a disproportionate response to cut off his arm in retaliation. Further, there are even extents to which the same violent act can be considered worse depending on the circumstances. Consider homicide. First degree murder isn’t just killing someone, it’s killing someone having planned it out in advance. Second degree murder, on the other hand, is just homicide that happens in the spur of the moment—a crime of passion. Manslaughter is homicide that happens in a situation you might not have intended to happen, strictly speaking, but which you should have known would happen, etc.

Given these facts about how society treats actual physical violence, it would seem we have to ask some uncomfortable questions if we choose to treat speech as a form of violence:

If certain types of speech are violence, are all types of speech proportional to each other? That is, is screaming the n-word at a black person a worse form of violent speech than quoting Charles Murray to them? If not, how do we figure out what a proportionate response is to being attacked with violent speech? What level of rhetorical violence is too much or too little? For that matter, what level of physical violence is too much or too little, and how do we analogize the degree of rhetorical harm to the degree of physical harm? Is quoting a Christina Hoff Sommers video equal to pinching someone? Throwing a punch? Murder?

Relatedly, if we consider, say, racist speech to be de facto violent speech, then is there such a thing as first degree racism, second degree racism, or manslaughter-level racism? Would citing Richard Spencer approvingly, knowing what he believes, be first degree racism, as opposed to posting something he wrote without knowing who he is (which would be more like second degree murder or manslaughter)? If there are degrees of speech violence, then how do we determine the appropriate response to each? If there are not degrees, then do we default to the worst possible punishment or the least possible punishment for an offense? How do we determine what the worst possible punishment is?

How do we adjudicate the appropriate response to violent speech if the very act of debating guilt might itself be violent? How would even a universal SJW court manage sentencing if they couldn’t even talk about the deserved punishment without possibly engaging in negligent violence?

Alternately, since economics teaches us that cardinal utility is nonexistent, is it not possible that even speech most people consider to be harmless could end up being harmful to one specific person, and therefore be negligent violence? Could we be in a “Knights Who Say Ni” type situation where the word “it” harms someone? If so, what’s the point of talking at all, if you might inadvertently be guilty of something? Why not simply regress to grunting and pointing?

Actually, forget grunting and pointing, because while we’re on the subject, what constitutes speech? Do nonsense syllables count? Let’s say someone points at his penis when looking at a woman a certain way. Is this speech because she can infer the message, even if he never uttered a sound? If so, can we call gestures violent speech in some contexts? How do we know what they are, and how do we decide what they are, if (as already established) it might be too dangerous to talk?

What’s the point of communicating at all? There’s always the risk of assaulting someone without knowing it.

I gather there is no need to waste more words and thought on this endlessly escalating absurdity. The key point has been made: the premise that speech is violence is not merely unsupportable at a philosophical level, but also at a practical one. It is an invitation not so much to the tragedy of totalitarian thought control as to simply a thoughtless, wordless, brainless farce. It surely invites us to Hell, but the Hell involved is best described as some bleak combination of C.S. Lewis’ “grey town” with Tumblr: a universe in which endlessly isolated souls continue to shift their own individual safe spaces further and further apart out of mutual hatred. In place of the vibrancy of the marketplace of ideas, it hands us solitary confinement in a solipsistic mind deprived even of the comforting capacity to frame thoughts.

In short, it would be very tempting to call the doctrine that “speech is violence” one of the most purely violent ideas we know if even a cursory investigation into the idea that speech can be violence did not yield us enough information to know better. For the sake of avoiding the absurd questions and consequences it raises, however, it is best that we dismiss that urge.

From American Greatness (April 24, 2017)

The Legitimate Heir

Portrait Of Paul Revere By John Singleton Copley

Is White Nationalism Un-American?

By Greg Johnson

Many patriotic Americans object to White Nationalism because they are told it is “un-American.” America, they say, was always a multiracial society, dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.” Therefore, the White Nationalist idea of a society that bases citizenship on race is alien to the American tradition.

This viewpoint is false, based on a systematic misrepresentation of American history.

First of all, the claim that the United States is dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal” is simply untrue. The phrase “all men are created equal” comes from the Declaration of Independence of 1776. Whatever the intended meaning of this rhetorical flourish, its author, Thomas Jefferson, and many of the signatories, evidently did not think it was inconsistent with owning Negro slaves. In fact, “all men are created equal” was simply the republican denial of the principle of hereditary monarchy and aristocracy. The intended meaning, however, is moot because the Declaration may well be an important historical document, but it is not a legal document of the United States.

The Constitution of the United States was written in 1787, ratified in 1788, and went into effect in 1789. It contains not a word about universal human equality, but it does prohibit a hereditary aristocracy. The Preamble makes it clear that the Constitution was created and ratified by white men to provide good government for themselves and their posterity, not all of mankind. The Constitution treats Indians as foreign nations, allows Negro slavery, and defines free and enslaved blacks as non-citizens, each one counting as only three-fifths of a person for the purposes of Congressional representation.

The claim that America is “dedicated to the proposition” of human equality comes from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which, like the Declaration, is a fine piece of rhetoric, but it is not a legal document of the United States either. Lincoln’s claim that America is dedicated to the “proposition” of equality is the epitome of the Left-wing revisionist tradition in America, which has taken a line from the Declaration, inflated it with a great deal of rhetorical hot air, and set it up as the first and final commandment of an egalitarian civil religion. This civil religion has no constitutional basis. But that has proved to be no impediment. A piece of paper still remains enshrined in Washington, D.C. But the Constitution’s inegalitarian, particularist, and libertarian order has simply been replaced with a Jacobin-style state committed to realizing the idea of universal human equality.

Second, the claim that America was always a multiracial society — with whites, American Indians, and blacks present from the start of English colonization — is fundamentally false. From the beginning of the colonial period well into the history of the United States, there was a consensus that blacks and American Indians — and later mestizos and Orientals — might be “in” white society, but they were not “of” it. They were foreigners, not fellow citizens. They had no say about the character and destiny of white society.

The colonial consensus that blacks and Indians were not part of white society was reflected in the Constitution. It was further elaborated in the Naturalization Act of 1790, which defined who could become a citizen of the United States. Naturalization was limited to free white persons of good character. This excluded American Indians, indentured servants, free and enslaved blacks, Muslims, and later, Orientals.

From the start, American Indians were considered distinct, sovereign nations. American Indians who did not live on reservations could become citizens only with the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868. Citizenship was granted to all American Indians only by the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. To this day, however, most Indians in effect enjoy dual citizenship, since they belong to tribes which still have special rights granted to them by treaties with the US government.

Blacks, whether slaves or free, were not considered to be part of white society in the colonial period or under the constitution until the adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868. The Naturalization Act of 1870 allowed foreign-born blacks, primarily from other parts of the Americas, to become US citizens.

Chinese immigrants began arriving in the 1840s, and their presence almost immediately created a backlash. White Americans objected to Chinese economic competition, drug use, criminality, and all-round alienness.

Soon an Asian exclusion movement arose to cut off Chinese immigration and freeze the Chinese out of American society. The vanguard of Chinese exclusion came from the labor movement, which saw that big business interests were importing coolies to depress white wages and living standards. California was the front line of the Chinese invasion and the white reaction, which was often violent. The Chinese exclusion movement was led by the California Workingmen’s Party, founded by Irish immigrant Denis Kearney, who obviously didn’t fall for the idea that all immigrants are equal. (See Theodore J. O’Keefe’s “Denis Kearney and Struggle for a White America” and Raymond T. Wolters, “Race War on the Pacific Coast.”)

Because of exclusionist agitation, Chinese immigration was reduced, then completely barred for ten years by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was renewed in 1892 and again in 1902 and extended to people from Hawaii and the Philippines. Chinese exclusion was again reaffirmed by the Immigration Act of 1924. Chinese born in America were not considered citizens until 1898, and it was only in 1940 that naturalization was opened to people of Chinese, Philippine, and Indian descent, as well as descendants of the aboriginal peoples from other parts of the Western Hemisphere, meaning Indians and Mestizos from outside the United States. Chinese exclusion was only overturned by Congress in 1943, as a wartime gesture toward China.

But even with all of these concessions to non-whites, US immigration and naturalization law was explicitly committed to maintaining an overwhelming white majority until the 1965 immigration act threw open its borders to race-replacement immigration from the Third World.

The 1965 Immigration Act, like the long history of extending citizenship to non-whites that came before it, was imposed by political elites against the will of the white majority. Such measures would never have been approved if the public had been allowed to vote on them in referendums.

Furthermore, extending legal citizenship to non-whites did not in any way alter the deep conviction that real Americans are white, and the naturalization of non-whites came with the expectation that they would live according to white norms. Non-white citizens faced numerous forms of legal and social discrimination, subordination, and segregation well into the twentieth century.

Thus, although it is true to say that non-whites have always existed within the borders of what we now call America, throughout most of American history, they have been excluded from citizenship or consigned to second-class citizenship and forced to conform to white cultural norms.

The American tradition of excluding and subordinating non-whites is, of course, portrayed as violent, evil, irrational, petty, and mean-spirited by our education system and culture industry, which are firmly in the hands of the Left. But Americans had their reasons. They recognized that race is real, that the races are different, and that different races are more comfortable in different forms of society. They recognized that any attempt to incorporate non-whites into American society will result in conflict as non-whites demand that white society accommodate them, and whites push back to protect their own way of life. In short, they knew all along precisely what White Nationalists — and white Americans in general — are now learning from bitter experience from the failure of egalitarianism, racial integration, and non-white immigration.

If, dear reader, you truly are an American patriot, if you take your bearings from the American Founding (the real Founding — the Constitution — not the egalitarian afflatus that has replaced it), then it behooves you to learn something about what the founders and subsequent generations of statesmen and sages actually thought about race. I suggest you begin with Jared Taylor’s classic article, “What the Founders Really Thought About Race.” I also suggest that you pick up S. T. Joshi’s Documents of American Prejudice: An Anthology of Writings on Race from Thomas Jefferson to David Duke (New York: Basic Books, 1999), which documents a long and illustrious tradition of American race realism, as well as its editor’s Left-wing prejudices.

Even many White Nationalists are surprised to learn how sensible earlier generations of Americans were. This makes America’s reversal and decline all the more shocking, but ultimately it is cause for hope, for it reveals deep foundations upon which we can build. Far from being “un-American,” White Nationalism is actually the legitimate heir of the healthiest strands of the American tradition.

But unlike previous generations of race realists, who were confused by commitments to classical liberalism, corrupted by the allure of the cheap-labor plantation economy, and too easily contented with half-measures that ultimately failed to preserve America for their posterity, White Nationalists aim at a permanent solution: the repatriation of post-1965 immigrant populations and the partition of the United States into racially homogeneous homelands.

From Counter Currents Publishing (April 17, 2017)

Paul Erlich, False Prophet Of Doom

Paul Erlich (Born 1932)

On This Earth Day, Remember How Often Environmental Alarmists Are Wrong

Today [April 22] is the 47th annual Earth Day. On this day, it is worth reflecting on how completely, totally wrong environmental alarmists often are. Few things tell us more about the environmental movement—where it’s been and, more importantly, where it is now—than its dismal track record in the predictive department.

Case in point: Paul Ehrlich, who is as close to a rock star as you’re apt to find among environmentalists. Ehrlich is most famous for his 1968 book “The Population Bomb,” in which he famously predicted that, during the 1970s and 1980s, humanity would suffer mass famine and starvation due to overpopulation. “At this late date,” Ehrlich wrote, “nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate."

Spoiler alert: Ehrlich was wrong—so wrong, in fact, that not only did his doomsday predictions fail to materialize, but the exact opposite happened. Readers who were alive during the 1970s and 80s will recall that there was plenty to eat, there was no mass die-off, everything worked out fine, and humanity’s lot continued to improve as it had throughout the rest of the 20th century.

This kind of humiliating embarrassment would be enough to cow even the proudest of men—unless that man is an environmentalist, of course. Incredibly, as NewsBuster’s Tim Graham pointed out this week, Ehrlich was still making his doomsday predictions in 1989—well after the point when it was clear his previous predictions had been utter failures. Ehrlich claimed that, during the 1990s, “We’re going to see massive extinction;” he theorized that rising ocean waters meant “we could expect to lose all of Florida, Washington D.C., and the Los Angeles basin.”

Another spoiler: none of this happened. I visited Florida several times in the 1990s; it was not underwater. I visited Los Angeles shortly after the turn of the century; it, too, was fully above ground. Washington D.C., alas, remains as un-inundated as ever.

For Paul Ehrlich, unfortunately, twice-humiliated does not mean twice- or even once-chastened. Just a few years ago he was predicting that human beings would have to resort to cannibalism to cope with the coming famine. He also claims that “The Population Bomb” was “much too optimistic;” this was a book, mind you, that predicted hundreds of millions of deaths that ended up not happening.

You might imagine that such unprofessional behavior and a miserable track record would render a man unfit for professional scientific society, and that he would be looked upon by his colleagues (if he had any) as “that guy who keeps predicting the end of the world and who keeps being wrong.” Not so: Ehrlich is a well-esteemed professor at Stanford, as well as the president of that university’s Center for Conservation Biology.

A man continually makes outlandishly fake predictions and beclowns himself on the global scientific stage: in what socio-scientific subculture could such a man find any purchase? The answer: environmentalism.

This Earth Day, consider reflecting on the bizarre dichotomy of (a) Paul Ehrlich’s mortifying history of predictive failures regarding the environment, and (b) his continued relevance in the field of environmental studies. Reflect on what that tells you about the environmental movement as a whole, particularly its hysterical climate change wing. And then consider the possibility that you can safely ignore the hysterics and simply live your life without worrying that Tampa, Florida is going to be washed away sometime over the next few decades.

Happy Earth Day!

From The Federalist (April 22, 2017)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Battle Of The Outsiders

Marine Le Pen And Emmanuel Macron

French Presidential Run-Off Battle Between Globalist And France-First Populist

Amid tightened security following last Thursday’s deadly terrorist attack in Paris, French voters turned out in high numbers to the polls on Sunday for the first round of the country’s presidential election. Globalist Emmanuel Macron and populist Marine Le Pen, the two top finishers amongst the eleven candidates running to replace the Socialist French President Francois Hollande, will face each other in a run-off on Sunday, May 7th.  Mr. Macron came out on top, with slightly over 23 percent of vote, and is the favorite to win the presidency outright in the May 7th run-off. Ms. Le Pen ran a close second. Neither of the top two finishers were candidates of France’s major mainstream left and right parties. The incumbent president is very unpopular, which no doubt burdened the Socialist candidate. The major right-of-center candidate has been mired in a scandal.

Not surprisingly, the lackluster economy, including 10 percent unemployment, and security concerns emanating from repeated terrorist attacks emerged as the leading issues in the race.

French voters will be choosing as their next president between two individuals with starkly different world views. As of now, according to Politico, Emmanuel Macron is ahead of Marine Le Pen by 20 to 30 percent in a one-on-one match-up. Moreover, in an initial positive response from investors to Mr. Macron’s first-place finish and prospects in the run-off, the Euro rose to a 5½-month high against the dollar. Nevertheless, given Ms. Le Pen’s close finish in the first round and her enthusiastic constituency, it is premature to count her out. After all, the pundits and pollsters were virtually unanimous in picking Hillary Clinton to win last fall over Donald Trump. We know how that turned out.

Emmanuel Macron, 39, who founded his own independent party just a year ago, is a pro-European Union centrist. He believes in gradual deregulation and fiscal discipline, while at the same time espousing even closer cooperation among the EU’s 28 member states. Several EU leaders expressed delight with Mr. Macron’s strong finish and prospects in the run-off. For example, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said, “He is the only pro-EU candidate.” Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said he was “happy that Macron will represent in the second round democratic and European values that I share.”

Mr. Macron, speaking after the election results came in, congratulated the other candidates he ran against, except Ms. Le Pen. In a barb at his opponent in the May 7th run-off, he said he would lead “the patriots facing the nationalists.”

Marine Le Pen, 48, is the leader of the nationalist Front National party. She ran on a platform combining anti-globalist sentiments with economic populism.

In a recent debate, Ms. Le Pen summed up how she viewed her candidacy: "I'm a French woman, a mother and a candidate for the presidency. For me this election is about a choice of civilizations. Our country is overrun by insecurity, economic and social disorder and Islamist terrorism. Our values and identity are under threat."

While not endorsing Ms. Le Pen outright, President Trump remarked that she was “strongest on borders, and she’s the strongest on what’s been going on in France."

Shortly after the election results became known, Ms. Le Pen reprised her anti-globalist, populist themes. She framed the “great issue in this election” as “the rampant globalization that is putting our civilization at risk." At a rally in northern France, she declared, “The choice now is between a wild globalization, a world in which terrorists can travel free, and a France with strong borders. It is time to free the French people from the arrogant elite. I am the candidate of the people.”

Looking ahead to the run-off, Ms. Le Pen is likely to paint Mr. Macron, a former banker who served in President Hollande’s cabinet, as part of the “arrogant elite.” She also claimed the mantle of the patriot for herself, fighting against "wild deregulation," open borders, and "the free circulation of terrorists."

Marine Le Pen’s qualification for the run-off indicates the continuing strength of the anti-globalist, populist movement sweeping the West, which first showed up in the United Kingdom’s pro-Brexit vote and then in the victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election last fall. In 2011, Ms. Le Pen took over the Front National party founded by her racist, Holocaust-denying father and has since transformed it into a France-first, populist movement that caught on with voters disaffected with the major traditional parties.  To shed the Front National’s extremist, anti-Semitic image, she cast her father aside after his continued offensive outbursts.

However, Ms. Le Pen retains some traces of her father’s stereotyping of Jews. She claims to believe that radical Islam is a “threat on French culture,” but then demands that Jews make certain “sacrifices” in their own public expression of religious beliefs so that limitations imposed on Muslims living in France, as part of the fight against jihad, will not be seen as discriminatory. For example, she believes that Jews should give up wearing a kippah in public. “Maybe they will do with just wearing a hat, but it would be a step in the effort to stamp out radical Islam in France,” she said.

When was the last time a kippah concealed a bomb or a gun? Yet, Ms. Le Pen effectively equates observant Jews and radical Islamists as dangers to France’s secular identity because both minority populations are overtly religious.

Ms. Le Pen has also downplayed the role of France's Vichy government in the roundup and deportation of Jews to concentration camps during the Nazi occupation.

Thus, it is no surprise that between the two run-off candidates, French Jews are favoring Mr. Macron. However, to be fair, Mr. Macron is not without his own biases and expression of moral equivalency. Last fall, he remarked about the tendency of “more and more children being sent to religious schools which teach them to hate the Republic and teach mainly in Arabic, or in other places” where they “teach the Torah more than general studies."

The pro-globalism establishment is rooting for a Macron victory, which would be seen as a major rebuff of the populist, anti-immigrant movement in Europe. The populist movement has already suffered recent defeats in Austria and the Netherlands. Mr. Macron’s election in France would represent a far more significant defeat for the populists. However, Germany’s federal election will be held in September. Whatever happens in France next month, the electoral results in Germany are more likely to determine whether the EU can survive the populist reaction to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s reckless open door policy, admitting hundreds of thousands of self-proclaimed “refugees” and migrants from terrorist prone countries. As long as the wave of “refugees” and migrants continues to sweep over Europe, it will be impossible to put out the populist fires she helped to ignite in the first place.

From FrontPage Magazine (April 24, 2017)

A Crisis Of Young White Despair

Ryan Johnson spiraled into addiction as his prospects faded. Now he’s a cautionary tale for high schoolers.
(Photographer: Whitten Sabbatini)

Young White America Is Haunted by a Crisis of Despair

Ryan Johnson was 22 when he succumbed to a heroin addiction that had intensified as the Erie, Pennsylvania, high school graduate grew disillusioned with his future. His mother found him in his room with his head slumped and lips blue.

It was June 28, 2014, the day of his sister’s master’s-degree graduation party.

Sue Johnson, Ryan’s mother, in her backyard.

“He just saw his life as not what he wanted it to be, and he didn’t know how to get it there,” said Sue Johnson, who lay next to her son’s corpse for an hour. He had dropped out of a two-year culinary program and was working part-time, low-wage jobs. He often compared himself with his peers in college and his athletic, academic older sister.

The fates of the less-educated and those who graduate from universities diverge in dire ways. Middle-aged white Americans without four-year degrees are at increasing risk of dying, a well-documented trend driven not only by drug use but also by alcoholism, suicide, and slowing progress against heart disease and cancer. Outcomes may worsen further as millennials—Johnson’s generation—grow older.

“America is not a great place for people with only a high school degree, and I don’t think that’s going to get better anytime soon,” said Angus Deaton, a Nobel Prize-winning Princeton University economist.

It’s too soon to tell whether millennials will die at higher rates in middle age than today’s 45- to 54-year-olds, said Anne Case, a Princeton economist who identified the “deaths of despair” trend with Deaton, her spouse and co-author. But in stories like Johnson’s, there are reasons to worry.

Case and Deaton have a theory for why mortality has risen for less-educated whites. For all the debate over whether college is worthwhile, high school graduates who go straight into the workforce have higher unemployment, weaker wage growth, and less chance of marrying than their predecessors and educated peers. Community supports have broken down, and as disadvantage snowballs, premature deaths rise.

Those problems could intensify for the next generation that reaches middle age. Many millennials, born after 1980, joined the workforce during the Great Recession, so they faced low starting salaries and tough job prospects. And they’re saddled with student debt. Still, almost two-thirds lack a bachelor’s degree, which in today’s economy is a near-prerequisite for jobs that provide higher wages and benefits.

Meanwhile, marriage is happening later and less often. Religious affiliation and union membership have declined, so when life doesn’t work out well for millennials, they’re on their own.

While blacks and Hispanics without college degrees are also falling behind economically and socially, middle-age mortality has worsened for whites in particular over the past 20 years—a fact some attribute partly to social context.

“For whites, their reference group is previous generations of whites,” said Shannon Monnat, a Pennsylvania State University professor who studies the opioid epidemic in rural America. “When they look back on their parents and grandparents, it feels like their generation is doing worse.”

Erie, a town of about 99,500 on the shores of its namesake lake, has watched its industrial base erode.

Such decline runs deep in Erie, where Johnson attended school and worked a string of part-time restaurant jobs. Nestled against the gray-green waters of one of America’s Great Lakes, the town has been declining since the 1970s. Its population dropped below 100,000 in 2014 for the first time since 1920.

Formerly grand red-brick factories have broken windows and vine-covered exteriors. The local General Electric Co. plant, which makes locomotives for export, has shed almost half its workforce in recent years—1,500 jobs were cut last year, and 950 were moved to Texas in 2013. While service industries including health care show signs of life, high-paying jobs that require only a high school education are increasingly limited.

“A lot of that leads to despair, to hopelessness,” said Scott Slawson, a longtime GE welder and union local president. “It’s a scary path we’re on."

Erie’s suicide rates have risen, with 48 last year, up from 29 a year on average for the past half-century, according to county coroner Lyell Cook. There were 95 drug deaths in surrounding Erie County last year, up from a historically normal 40, and 35 drug deaths in 2017 as of mid-March, with another 12 likely overdoses awaiting toxicology reports.

The opioid crisis, born of heavy prescribing of addictive pills and compounded by readily available street heroin, has added fuel to the fire for people already facing a tough labor market.

Funeral director Jack Martin shows students where drugs may lead.

“It stems from depression,” said Jack Martin, a 63-year-old funeral director who’s dealt with many overdose deaths. That’s especially true for younger victims. “When they look down the road: Am I going to get married? Am I going to be successful? Am I going to have enough money?”

Just 71.3 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds who graduated high school but didn’t go on to college were employed in 2016, versus 85.2 percent of college graduates.

Signs of distress are already showing up. Today’s 20- to 34-year-olds are killing themselves at higher rates than people of similar age in 2000. Alcohol-induced deaths have been rising across age groups, and the rate doubled for 25- to 34-year-olds from 1999 to 2015, based on Monnat’s analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Nationally, 25- to 34-year-olds make up the biggest share of opioid overdoses, and their proportion has been climbing, based on Kaiser Family Foundation data.

Johnson started using opioids in high school after breaking his collarbone, first in football and again while wrestling, and he got hooked on his prescription, his mother thinks. He was a functional addict at first, caring and warm, but things slipped out of control after he graduated and found that his skills—art and cooking, but not academics—meant little in the workforce. After dropping out of culinary school, he went to rehab for the first of three times.

At one point, things were looking up: He was clean and got a full-time job making wood pallets. But his co-workers did drugs, and before long, he was using again.

“That was the thinking there: It’s a stupid job. It doesn’t matter if you’re high to work it,” his mother said.

The cycle ended in June 2014. While she was getting ready for the party for her daughter, who had earned a degree in occupational therapy, Sue Johnson went to wake her son. She couldn’t: He had overdosed.

The next year, Martin, the funeral director, started teaching students at a local high school about opioid abuse. He brings health classes to his funeral home and shows them the white-tiled preparation room and the cold, steel table where he lays out bodies.

“I actually scare the crap out of them,” he said. “But it works.”

He shows them pictures of heroin-dead, explaining that just years before their bodies passed through this sterile room, the deceased had walked high school halls. Among the pictures is a snapshot of Ryan Johnson, shaggy-haired and smiling.

From Bloomberg (April 18, 2017)

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Media Outlet Scorned

Man Who Embarrassed HuffPo with Hoax Article Loses Job After Outlet Tracks Him Down at Work

A South African man who, posing as a feminist activist, convinced the Huffington Post to publish an article calling for white males to have their voting rights removed has now lost his job after HuffPo editors tracked him down and confronted him at his workplace.

On April 13, HuffPo published a piece entitled “Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise?” written by supposed feminist activist “Shelley Garland.”

“Some of the biggest blows to the progressive cause in the past year have often been due to the votes of white men,” wrote “Garland” in the article. “If white men were not allowed to vote, it is unlikely that the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union, it is unlikely that Donald Trump would now be the President of the United States, and it is unlikely that the Democratic Alliance would now be governing four of South Africa’s biggest cities.”

“If white men no longer had the vote, the progressive cause would be strengthened,” she continued, adding, “At the same time, a denial of the franchise to white men, could see a redistribution of global assets to their rightful owners.”

Garland has now been revealed to be the pseudonym of Marius Roodt, a think-tank employee from Johannesberg, who created the persona in order to expose HuffPo’s racism and “lack of fact-checking.”

In the face of public outrage, the Huffington Post initially defended the piece. According to Verashni Pillay, editor-in-chief of HuffPo South Africa, “dismantling the patriarchal systems that have brought us to where we are today, a world where power is wielded to dangerous and destructive ends by men, and in particular white men, necessarily means a loss of power to those who hold it.”

Only after learning that “Shelley Garland” did not exist, and that they had been trolled, did the Huffington Post retract the article and affirm that they “fully support” universal enfranchisement.

In a later post, Verashni Pillay also apologized for initially defending the piece.”I did not make it clear enough in my initial response that I absolutely do not agree with the disenfranchisement of any group of people,” wrote Pillay. “I don’t hate white men.”

Following the humiliation, the Huffington Post decided that their hoaxer needed to be punished rather than praised for exposing the clear weaknesses of their editorial process (which HuffPo themselves admitted to, and pledged to improve, in the post announcing the retraction of “Garland’s” article.)

The man behind “Shelley Garland,” Marius Roodt, was identified after the Huffington Post digitally traced his email and used facial recognition technology on the picture of “Garland,” which was actually a picture of Roodt altered to look like a woman.

Armed with video recording equipment, three HuffPo editors then arrived at Roodt’s workplace to confront him.

Putting him on the spot in a video interview, the HuffPo editors then asked him a number of questions including, “Are you sorry for what you did?” HuffPo editor-at-large Ferial Haffajee also told Roodt that she thought his hoax had been an example of “his own anger coming out” and had been a “very angry thing to do.”

The HuffPo editors also drew attention to some of the consequences caused by the publication of the piece. Despite the fact that the Huffington Post made the decision to publish the article, they called on Roodt to answer for them.

“Did you think that this might – if this were published – might lead to racial discord, or might harden attitudes on both sides?” asked Pieter du Toit, deputy editor of HuffPo South Africa. “It’s led to a white Twitter outcry. It’s led to some terrible things being said about South Africans across the board, and terrible things being said personally about our colleagues [and] the title we work for.”

And yet, it was Roodt, not anyone at the Huffington Post, who ended up losing his job. Roodt tendered his resignation with his employer, the Centre for Development and Enterprise, a prestigious South African think-tank.

The resignation was accepted by Ann Bernstein, the CDE’s director. Roodt has yet to explain why he felt the need to resign, given that he appears to have done a service to South African journalism by exposing lax editorial standards and a troubling level of racism at a major online publication.

From Breitbart (April 20, 2017)

* * * * *

Here Is The Hoax/Article As It Originally Appeared On Huffington Post:

Could It Be Time To Deny White Men The Franchise?
By Shelley Garland

Some of the biggest blows to the progressive cause in the past year have often been due to the votes of white men. If white men were not allowed to vote, it is unlikely that the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union, it is unlikely that Donald Trump would now be the President of the United States, and it is unlikely that the Democratic Alliance would now be governing four of South Africa's biggest cities.
If white men no longer had the vote, the progressive cause would be strengthened. It would not be necessary to deny white men indefinitely – the denial of the vote to white men for 20 years (just less than a generation) would go some way to seeing a decline in the influence of reactionary and neo-liberal ideology in the world. The influence of reckless white males were one of the primary reasons that led to the Great Recession which began in 2008. This would also strike a blow against toxic white masculinity, one that is long needed.
At the same time, a denial of the franchise to white men, could see a redistribution of global assets to their rightful owners. After all, white men have used the imposition of Western legal systems around the world to reinforce modern capitalism. A period of twenty years without white men in the world's parliaments and voting booths will allow legislation to be passed which could see the world's wealth far more equitably shared. The violence of white male wealth and income inequality will be a thing of the past.
This redistribution of the world's wealth is long overdue, and it is not just South Africa where white males own a disproportionate amount of wealth. While in South Africa 90 percent of the country's land is in the hands of whites (it is safe to assume these are mainly men), along with 97 percent of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, this is also the norm in the rest of the world. Namibia has similar statistics with regard to land distribution and one can assume this holds for other assets too. As Oxfam notes eight men control as much as wealth as the poorest 50 percent of the world's population.
In the United States ten percent of the population (nearly all white) own 90 percent of all assets – it is likely that these assets are largely in the hands of males. Although statistics by race are difficult to find from other parts of the world, it is very likely that the majority of the world's assets are in the hands of white males, despite them making up less than 10 percent of the world's population.
It is obvious that this violent status quo will not change without a struggle, and the only way to do so will be through the expropriation of these various assets and equitably distribute them to those who need them. This will not only make the world a more equitable place, but will also go some way to paying the debt that white males owe the world. Over the past 500 years colonialism, slavery, and various aggressive wars and genocides, have been due to the actions of white men. Redistributing some of their assets will go some way to paying the historical debt that they owe society.
It is no surprise that liberalism – and its ideological offshoots of conservatism and libertarianism – are the most popular ideologies among white males. These ideologies with their focus on individuals and individual responsibility, rather than group affiliation, allow white men to ignore the debt that they owe society, and from acknowledging that most of their assets, wealth, and privilege are the result of theft and violence.
It is time to wrestle control of the world back from white males, and the first step will be a temporary restriction of the franchise to them.
Some may argue that this is unfair. Let's be clear, it may be unfair, but a moratorium on the franchise for white males for a period of between 20 and 30 years is a small price to pay for the pain inflicted by white males on others, particularly those with black, female-identifying bodies. In addition, white men should not be stripped of their other rights, and this withholding of the franchise should only be a temporary measure, as the world rights the wrongs of the past.
A withholding of the franchise from white males, along with the passing of legislation in this period to redistribute some of their assets, will also, to a degree, act as the reparations for slavery, colonialism, and apartheid, which the world is crying out for to be paid.
As we saw after the recent altercation between a white man and Lebohang Mabuya at a Spur restaurant in Johannesburg, white males still believe that they are in control, and people who aren't white or male (in particularly black female-identifying people) have to bow to their every whim. There are numerous other examples of white angry male violence in South Africa and abroad, often against black bodies (Dylann Roof's terrorist actions in the United States is only one of many examples). It is time to wrestle control of the world back from white males, and the first step will be a temporary restriction of the franchise to them.
Although this may seem unfair and unjust, allowing white males to continue to call the shots politically and economically, following their actions over the past 500 years, is the greater injustice.
From The Huffington Post (April 13, 2017)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What's Next For Fox News?

Before Trump Nation, There Was Fox Nation: Fox News After Roger Ailes And Bill O’Reilly

I. The Impact Of Fox

An era has come to an end at Fox News. The departure, last year, of Roger Ailes, its founder and CEO for two decades, and the departure, this year, of Bill O’Reilly, its biggest star for two decades, means that Fox will be changing. What’s said of politics is also true of TV: Personnel is policy. Tell me the names of those who are making the decisions about programming, and the names of those who are actually doing the shows, and I’ll tell you, in turn, about the network.

Yet now, post-Ailes and post-O’Reilly, Fox’s future is enshrouded in clouds. As we peer through the mist, it’s possible to cite some informed speculation about where Fox is headed, but first, let’s consider where Fox has been, and what it’s done.

As we all know, Fox changed the media, and the country, since it was founded in 1996. Most obviously, Fox gave a home to—and a voice to—the half of the country that felt ignored, even disdained, by what we have come to call the Main Stream Media.

The conservatives on Fox—there were plenty of liberals, too, on the channel, although they were less memorable— talked a different language from the conservatives that went before them. That is, prior to Fox in 1996, the leading media engine of conservative and Republican thinking was The Wall Street Journal editorial page. And close behind was William F. Buckley’s National Review.

Then came Fox. And with Fox, as we shall see, came the changes that prefigured the victory of Donald Trump in 2016.

The founder, CEO, and overall guiding light of the network was Roger Ailes. He was undeniably a Republican and a conservative, and yet even so, he was cut from different cloth than the Journal and NR.

Born in 1940, Ailes grew up in blue-collar Warren, Ohio, 50 miles southeast of Cleveland. He got his start in local TV and quickly climbed the ladder, from prop boy to top dog. At age 25, he was executive producer of The Mike Douglas Show, which soon became the most widely syndicated daytime program in America.

From there, Ailes jumped to Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, and then went on to renown as a Republican political consultant, helping, among scores of clients, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. (This author came to know, and work with, Ailes in the mid-80s; I was also a Fox News contributor from 1996 to 2016.)

Although Ailes was always a stickler that the news side of Fox should maintain its Fair and Balanced integrity, it’s undeniable that the opinion side of Fox—mostly in prime time, but also sprinkled here and there throughout the weekly schedule—leaned to the right.

And yet at the same time, Fox was always, well, Ailesian. Just as he had tutored politicians never to talk down to the voters by dropping big words, so Ailes instructed his TV talent never to talk down to the audience. And so, unlike the Journal, Fox didn’t have much interest in libertarian economic theory; opinionators were often in favor of lower taxes and limited government, but references to Adam Smith or Friedrich Hayek were few and far between. And unlike the scribes for National Review, Ailes had little interest in explications of conservative ideology or theology.

What Ailes wanted was something different: He wanted strong personalities, crisp interviews, punchy language, and hard-hitting points, made quickly. And his formula worked. When Fox debuted in 1996, both CNN and MSNBC were already on the air; CNN’s Ted Turner predicted that his network would squash Fox “like a bug.”

Yet by 2002, Fox had overtaken CNN and could fairly claim its self-declared tagline: “The Most Powerful Name In News.”

Everyone remembers that Ailes left Fox under less-than-pleasant circumstances in July 2016, and yet even so, the momentum that he had built has continued to carry the channel forward. In January, Fox celebrated its 15th anniversary as the number one cable network.

Of course, Ailes didn’t do all this by himself.

The biggest star at Fox over the same two decades was Bill O’Reilly, who left the network, also under unpleasant circumstances, earlier this month. O’Reilly was a Fox Original; he was on the air the very first day, October 7, 1996 (although the show was known then as The O’Reilly Report, and it didn’t yet air in prime time).

Like Ailes, O’Reilly was a conservative, albeit of an even more populist persuasion. Indeed, from the first moment that BOR, as he was known internally, called someone a “pinhead,” the world was on notice that his show would be something different—and something very popular.

After all, O’Reilly was first and foremost a TV guy; his roots were in local news and tabloid television—also places that don’t reward complex locutions and polysyllabic words. And also, interestingly, for all his bluster, he never forgot, every night, to thank his audience for watching. It was that tight connection to his audience that made O’Reilly an enduring star.

So here we can see how the personal becomes the political: Born in 1949, O’Reilly was a part of a powerful demographic group; he was a middle-class Irish Catholic from the mid-Atlantic region—specifically, New York’s Long Island. Once upon a time, Irish-Americans had been solidly Democratic. First, it was was Tammany Hall and all the other Democratic political machines in big cities across the country; next, it was Al Smith (the first major-party Catholic presidential candidate) and FDR’s New Deal—all the way.

But then, in 1952, the great hero of World War Two, Republican Dwight Eisenhower, won the votes of many sons and daughters of Eire.

Indeed, after a rhapsodic-then-tragic detour in support of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1960, the Irish were inclined to support the presidential candidacies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, even as they typically retained their Democratic identity in state and local elections. Yet then, in the early 90s, Democrat Bill Clinton won them back to his party.

And so we return, once again, to the dawn of the Fox Era. Now let’s take a closer look at the country—at least its presidential voting patterns—pre-Fox and post-Fox.

II. The Jacksonian Coalition vs. the Yankee Coalition

Nineteen-ninety-two was the last presidential election in which Fox did not play a role. In that year, Bill Clinton trounced George H.W. Bush in an electoral college landslide, 370 to 168. Let’s have a look at the electoral votes, laid out on a map:

As we can readily see, Clinton not only won all but one of the Great Lakes States, but he also did well in the South; he won four of the 11 states of the Old Confederacy. He also won both of the leading coal-mining states, Kentucky and West Virginia.

To put these results another way, in 1992, the Democrats were fully competitive—even dominant—in the Heartland, especially in its northern reaches, up along Lake Michigan.

Then came Ailes, O’Reilly, and the Fox News Channel. Theirs was a populist-nationalism that ordinary people across the country could understand and relate to.

Thanks to FNC, it was no longer possible for the MSM and other scorners to stereotype the Republican Party as just the Chamber of Commerce plus the Moral Majority. Thanks to Fox, newer issues—anti-political correctness, crime, jihad— gained salience on the national stage. It was these newer issues, moving beyond the flat tax and Social Security privatization, or abortion and school prayer, that proved compelling to Northerners.

Indeed, thanks to the commonality of Fox, a new kind of virtual community was formed. For the first time in decades, blue collars in Pittsburgh were on the same political wavelength as blue collars in Nashville. That is, Pennsylvanians and Tennesseans together could see honest but sympathetic journalism about cops, soldiers, and ordinary folks—without the usual smugness, even hostility, of the MSM. Why, Fox fans could even meet each other on vacation in Branson, Missouri, the holiday nexus of the emerging Fox Nation.

And of course, long before he was a presidential candidate, Donald Trump was a regular on Fox.

Okay, so now to 2016. As we can gather from the electoral college map below, Republican Donald Trump reversed Bill Clinton’s strength in the Great Lakes; whereas Bill Clinton had won six of those seven states in ‘92, Trump won five of seven against Hillary Clinton in ’16. In addition, Trump solidified much of the South; he won the four states that Bush 41 had lost, although Virginia, increasingly dominated by the suburbs of Washington, DC, went the other way. And of course, Trump won Kentucky and West Virginia. Let’s have a look:

So we can see: To win in 2016, Trump vastly strengthened the Republican grip on the heartland, while Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, even as they were losing, managed to retain their grip on the bulk of the Northeast and the West Coast.

To consider the 2016 election results another way, we can examine the demographic underpinnings of the balloting. And these underpinnings can be stated simply: Trump united Southern white Protestants and Northern Catholics in the same political armada. 

Thus we can see: Trump brought the O’Reilly constituency of Northern Catholics, which had wandered off to vote for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, back into the Republican fold. As the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections had demonstrated, energized Republicans, nationwide, were mobilizing for big victories. And yet at the presidential level, those same GOP voters were waiting for a Republican candidate who was more Bill O’Reilly than Mitt Romney.   That is, a populist, not a plutocrat. And that O’Reilly-esque candidate, of course, was Trump.

To be sure, Trump didn’t win all Northern Catholics. He was mostly blanked in New England, even as he won most of the Midwest, plus Pennsylvania.

And of course, even in the states she won, Hillary Clinton didn’t win all the Catholics. In Massachusetts, for example, Trump won nearly 1.1 million votes; that total might provide a rough estimate of the number of Fox fans in the Bay State.

Interestingly, this coalition of Northern Catholics and Southern white Protestants has a long and important political history. In fact, this particular North-South alliance was first forged by one of Trump’s heroes, Andrew Jackson, our seventh president, way back in 1828. Let’s have a look at the electoral college map for that year:

Obviously much has changed in the last two centuries—starting with the fact that, back then, the US consisted of just 22 states. Moreover, the political parties themselves have changed: Jackson won as the leader of the Democratic Party, while Adams ran as a National Republican, that being a forerunner to the Republican Party, which was not founded until 1854.

Yet we can observe: The names of the candidates, and their party labels, may change, but the interests of peoples and regions remain far more steady. That is, Southerners tend to look at the world one way, and New Englanders (then and now, mostly Protestant, at least by background) tend to see it another way. And politically speaking, Catholics find themselves somewhere in between Southern and Northern Protestants.

Andrew Jackson himself was a Southerner, but with the help of a wily Northern political strategist, Martin Van Buren, Old Hickory managed to pull together a trans-regional coalition, composed of Southern whites and Northern Catholics, that won the 1828 election in a landslide against John Quincy Adams. (In those days, of course, Southern blacks, being enslaved, couldn’t vote; if they could have voted, they would undoubtedly have been for Adams, thus making the election far closer.) And then, four years later, in 1832, Jackson won a second landslide victory.

Thus was established the Jacksonian Coalition.

Now one might ask: What, exactly, did those two blocs, North and South, have in common? Answer: Not a whole lot, other than a shared antipathy to the policies and personalities of Yankee Protestants—and that was enough.

Not surprisingly, the hostility was mutual. In 1828, the Adams campaign labeled Jackson as the son of a prostitute, a bigamist, and a war criminal; meanwhile, his Southern supporters were labeled as ignorant rustics, and his Northern supporters as “Papists.”

Today, two centuries later, not that much has changed. In 2016, Hillary Clinton repeatedly slammed Trump (he, of course, responded in kind), and then, most notoriously, she referred to his supporters as a “basket of deplorables.”

Needless to say, O’Reilly and Fox closely covered Clinton’s “deplorables” comment—as did, of course, other, even newer, media outlets. Thus we can see that right-of-center media played a key role in knitting together a common Trumpian consciousness.

The bottom line for 2016 is that the Deplorable Jacksonians, North and South, were back together. Yes, the party labels have flipped; the Jacksonians, once Democrats, and are now Republicans, while the Yankees, once Republicans (or proto-Republicans), are now Democrats. But the dynamic of regional rivalries is much the same.

In the meantime, if we take another look at that 1828 map, we can see that the electoral wins for Jackson’s opponent that year, Adams, were almost entirely confined to New England, the hub of Yankee Protestantism. And of course, we know that in 2016, Hillary Clinton, too, won New England overwhelmingly. So again, we see a continuity: From Adams to Clinton, New England is typically on the other side of the Jacksonian Coalition. We can dub these anti-Jacksonians the Yankee Coalition.

Of course, in 2016, Clinton did well with other demographic groups, too. Most notably, she won big among African-Americans and Hispanics. And that’s why Clinton carried states with large black populations, such as Illinois, as well as states with large Hispanic populations, such as California.

Yet even though the contemporary Democratic coalition is far larger than just New England, we can observe that the Democrats’ intellectual heart is still with the Yankees, including such citadels as Harvard and Yale—so let’s stick with Yankee Coalition.

So there we have it: on one side, the Jacksonian Coalition of Southern white Protestants and Northern Catholics, and on the other, the Yankee Coalition, of New Englanders, people of color, and others who comprise all the little blue dots—oftentimes, college towns—across the country.

Today, the Jacksonized Republican Party is vastly stronger than it was 25 years ago. And Ailes and O’Reilly deserve a lot of credit for that.

So what will now happen to Fox, now that both of them are gone?   And what will happen to the Jacksonian Coalition,?

III. What’s Next for Fox, Post-Ailes, Post-O’Reilly

It’s hard to predict the future; the best thing to do is wait and see what transpires.

But for those who can’t wait, some clues might be found in a canny April 20 article in The Hollywood Reporter by Michael Wolff. For many years now, Wolff has been a leading chronicler of the news business, including Fox News; he even wrote a well-sourced and well-regarded book about Rupert Murdoch, the big boss of Fox’s parent company. Yet Murdoch, who hired Ailes two decades ago to start the news channel, is now 86.

And so the torch is being passed to a new generation—specifically, to Rupert’s younger son, James Murdoch. By all accounts, the younger Murdoch was the driving force behind the departure of both Ailes and O’Reilly and plans further changes, too.

So when Wolff headlines his latest piece, “It’s James Murdoch’s Fox News Now,” attention must be paid. And we can be sure that the reunited Jacksonian Coalition, who bulk up the Fox audience, will be paying particularly close attention to the outlet that helped bring them together again. Will Fox still be a binding force for these folks in the future? Stay tuned.

We don’t exactly how Fox will change in the years to come, but Wolff is clear about one thing: Change is coming. Big change.

From Breitbart (April 22, 2017)