Category Archives: Social Commentary

The Media

Trump is beating it at its own game.

I’m glad someone finally is, but I wish it were someone both more knowledgable and less childish. It’s possible to play that game without being him. I could certainly do it.

[Update a few minutes later]

Related: Trump haters: Do these two thought experiments. I can easily imagine the latter, and would vastly prefer it. Though I’d prefer him with policies less economically ignorant.

Trump And The Crisis Of Meritocracy

Thoughts from Glenn Reynolds:

“The warning lights have been flashing, and the klaxons sounding, for more than a decade and a half. But our pundits and prognosticators and professors and policymakers, ensconced as they generally are deep within the bubble, were for the most part too distant from the distress of the general population to see or hear it.”

Well, now they’ve heard it, and they’ve also heard that a lot of Americans resent the meritocrats’ insulation from what’s happening elsewhere, especially as America’s unfortunate record over the past couple of decades, whether in economics, in politics, or in foreign policy, doesn’t suggest that the “meritocracy” is overflowing with, you know, actual merit.

In the United States, the result has been Trump. In Britain, the result was Brexit. In both cases, the allegedly elite — who are supposed to be cool, considered, and above the vulgar passions of the masses — went more or less crazy. From conspiracy theories (it was the Russians!) to bizarre escape fantasies (A Brexit vote redo! A military coup to oust Trump!) the cognitive elite suddenly didn’t seem especially elite, or for that matter particularly cognitive.

In fact, while America was losing wars abroad and jobs at home, elites seemed focused on things that were, well, faintly ridiculous. As Richard Fernandez tweeted: “The elites lost their mojo by becoming absurd. It happened on the road between cultural appropriation and transgender bathrooms.” It was fatal: “People believe from instinct. The Roman gods became ridiculous when the Roman emperors did. PC is the equivalent of Caligula’s horse.”

There’s nothing “elite” or even educated about them. They’re just credentialed.

“Alt-Right”

No, libertarians are not:

Spencer has attempted to wring as much publicity from the incident as possible—he tweeted about it no fewer than 40 times, by my count. In his mind, libertarians are “lolbertarians” who need to “accept the reality of race” and get serious about “white replacement.” To the extent that his only goal in life is to garner more attention for his fringe worldview, I suppose the stunt was a success—here I am writing about it. Congrats to you, guy who thinks “the United States is a European country.”

In any case, the incident should make abundantly clear that the alt-right’s racism is incompatible with the principles of a free society. Libertarianism is an individualist philosophy that considers all people deserving of equal rights. In contrast, Spencer is a tribalist and collectivist whose personal commitment to identity politics vastly exceeds the left’s.

Yes. “Alt-Right” is just another variation on Left.

The Window Shade

Reflections from Wayne Hale on the apparent new anti-social activity in airplanes: Looking out the window.

I have actually been requested to put my shade down on an occasion in which the sun was beaming right in the window. On my trip to Israel a couple years ago, the sun came up as we were approaching the French coast, but the plane remained dark. I had to crack the bottom if I wanted to see, as we crossed the French then Italian Alps and Monico, and then Italy and Greece. Last week on the way to DC I ended up with a window seat with no window (the seat in front of me had two). It was almost claustrophobic. When I hear about these new aircraft coming along without windows, I think “No way.”

Muslim Slavery

A Georgetown professor says it’s not so bad. Meanwhile, at least fifty million Muslims support violent defense of their religion.

Seems low.

[Update a few minutes later]

A fourth Muslim group refuses federal funds to fight Islamic extremism. Gee, it’s almost as though they don’t have a problem with it.

And more on the joys of Muslim slavery from Rod Dreher:

Just past the 1:00 mark, Brown says that slavery under Islamic law was not comparable to chattel slavery in the American South, in part because the slaves of Muslims had rights. He said it was in fact comparable to feudalism in medieval Europe — something “social,” not “economic.” When the questioner persists in his challenge to Brown’s take on slavery in Islam, Brown goes on to say that it’s an undeniable fact that Muhammad held slaves.

“Are you more morally mature than the Prophet of God?” Brown says. “No, you’re not.”

So, there you have it. If Muhammad held slaves, how bad could slavery really be?

It’s a challenging point, actually: if the Prophet behaved in a certain way, who are Muslims today to stand in judgment of him and what he did? If we say that slavery is evil, are we not implicitly condemning the Prophet as an evildoer? Can a Muslim do that and still be a good Muslim? I don’t know.

It’s worth pointing out that in the New Testament, St. Paul doesn’t condemn slaveholding, which was common in his day, nor does he explicitly endorse it. He simply recognizes it as a fact of life, and tells slaves and slaveholders how to treat each other. (See here for more information.) However, the principles of Christianity led in modern times to the rejection of slavery among Christians. To canonize someone as a saint does not mean that they led perfect lives, only that the led lives of heroic Christian virtue. The only perfectly sinless life was that of Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless, it is worth considering whether or not Islam today has within it the resources to oppose slavery, which continues to exist in some Muslim countries. The line I quote above can be used to justify slavery (if Muhammad held slaves, who are Muslims to condemn other Muslims who own slaves?), or, I suppose, to undermine confidence in Muhammad and his teaching.

One of these religions is not like the other.

One of the infuriating things about the Zinnization of education is the notion that too many young people have that America invented slavery, rather than sacrificing over half a million men to end it, at the urging of Christians.

AI

The huge economic issue that no one in Washington is talking about:

Driverless trucks delivering goods to fully automated warehouses and loading docks. Drones delivering everything from pizza to furniture. Offices will become almost fully automated as work is farmed out to smart machines. There’s even speculation that AI could take the place of reporters and editors, writing copy with more speed and less bias than humans.

Most of these innovations are not far off. What’s worse, our schools are stuck in a time warp, teaching kids as if it was the 1970s, sending them to college where they major in English Lit or Environmental Management. How many of these young people would be better off going to a trade school and learning a valuable skill that would be useful in the new economy?

What’s needed is a revolution. Not rage against the machines, but a clear-eyed recognition in society from top to bottom that we can’t go back. The days when you could graduate from high school and go to work for 40 years in the local plant, earning a good middle-class wage and being able to buy into the American dream, are gone forever. Donald Trump can’t bring them back. The Democrats can’t bring them back. The unions can’t bring them back.

Nope.