Gleeful Indignation

From Roger Kimball:

It is curious how close certain seemingly contrary emotions can be. Consider, to take just one example, the feelings of glee and outrage. At first blush, they seem very different. Glee occupies a positive register in the metabolism of human emotions. There is such thing as malicious glee, of course—the German word schadenfreude captures that perfectly. But by and large, I believe, glee is a sunny, allegro emotion.

Outrage, on the contrary, is a dour beast. It glowers. It fulminates. It glories in moral indignation, which it eagerly manufactures whenever it is in short supply.

And it is there, in the manufacture, affectation, the pretense, of moral indignation that that outrage shades in smarmy gleefulness. You can see this in operation right now, today, by the simple expedient of turning to CNN and watching commentator after commentator explode in gleeful outrage over Donald Trump’s alleged comments about the relative desirability of immigrants from countries like Norway, on the one hand, and countries like Haiti, El Salvador, and various apparently unnamed African countries on the other. (I say “alleged” not because I doubt the substance of the report, but simply because the president has disputed some details of the reporting.)

Two questions: Were all those commentators at CNN (and the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other purveyors of sanctimony)—were they more delighted or unhappy about the president’s comment? Think carefully before answering.

Sometimes, the experience of outrage, and its accompanying moral indignation, is essentially a feeling of displeasure—at a wrong done or suffered, an injustice or cruelty observed, etc.

But sometimes, outrage is but a patina of indignation whose chief motive is incontinent delight. Which is it for the talking heads at CNN? Are they genuinely morally offended by the president’s comments? Or are they really absolutely delighted by the opportunity he has given them to say “shithole” over and over again while also running endless chyrons reminding viewers that the president referred to (if he did refer to) Haiti, El Salvador, etc., as “shithole countries” from which we should not seek immigrants?

I think it is the latter, and I believe there are two parts to the delight. One is the natural expectation of a ratings boost in the wake of all that potty-mouthed commentary. The other is the prospect, once again, of being given free rein to lay into Donald Trump and deplore how horrible, uncaring, racist, and vulgar he is. Maybe, just maybe, this exhibition of political incorrectness will turn the tide of public opinion against this most improbable president. Maybe, just maybe, it will administer the coup de grace against a man who is the walking embodiment of everything enlightened progressive opinion loathes.

Maybe. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Which brings me to my second question: Was the president right to question the desirability of accepting immigrants from places like Haiti? Let’s leave his colorful language to one side. That was just a bit of rhetorical salsa on the burrito. The coarsening of language in the public square (and the private hearth) means that virtually anyone not cloistered hears and/or utters much ruder language almost daily.

The real issue is whether we justly prefer immigrants from some places over others.

I would say that the answer is an unequivocal Yes. Of course we do. Not only was the president correct when, some time ago, he said that we should favor immigrants who knew English and brought with them marketable skills, he is also correct now when he suggests that someone from Norway, say, is more likely to bring those desirable qualities than someone from Haiti, El Salvador, etc.

He is further correct that the Haitis of the world are conspicuously undesirable places: crime- and disease-ridden trous de merde that we may pity and may endeavor to help but that are not necessarily good sources of helpful immigrants.

And here we come to a second curiosity in the preening and ecstatic outrage over the president’s comment. Everyone, near enough, knows that he was telling a home truth. It was outrageous not because he said something crude that was untrue. Quite the contrary: it was outrageous precisely because it was true but intolerable to progressive sensitivities.

In other words, the potency of taboo is still strong in our superficially rational culture. There are some things—quite a few, actually, and the list keeps growing—about which one cannot speak the truth or, in many cases, even raise as a subject for discussion without violating the unspoken pact of liberal sanctimoniousness.

Donald Trump, of course, does this regularly, delightedly. Hitherto, his brazenness has only endeared him to his base and driven his critics mad. Perhaps it will be different this time. Maybe the angry censors will descend en masse in effective indignation and drag him from the stage. Again, though, I wouldn’t count on it. Trump’s Haiti moment is cut from the same script as Trump’s “Rosie O’Donnell is a fat pig” mot. Uncouth. Crude. But was it untrue?

We live in a surreal moment when it becomes ever harder to tell the truth about sensitive subjects. Donald Trump has strutted across our timid landscape like a wrecking ball, telling truths, putting noses out of joint. The toffs will never forgive him, but I suspect the American people have stronger stomachs and are up to the task.

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The Somewhat Free Flow of Information

From IBD:

For years, Google has called for “the free flow of information” on the internet. How does that square with its YouTube subsidiary’s apparent bias against conservative content? Answer: It doesn’t.

YouTube promises that it is “a community where everyone’s voice can be heard.” But that promise doesn’t seem to apply if the voice espouses conservative viewpoints.

The latest evidence of this comes from Dennis Prager, a conservative talk-show host whose syndicated column appears regularly in IBD and who also runs Prager University. PragerU produces hundreds of educational videos from academics and other experts on various topics, ranging from the history of the Korean War to Israel’s founding. There’s no profanity, no nudity, no calls to violence. But the videos do give conservatives a voice.

On Monday, PragerU filed suit against Google for singling out dozens of PragerU videos for censorship only because they are conservative. YouTube did this, the suit claims, by labeling the videos as “inappropriate” for younger or sensitive viewers — making them unavailable to anyone in a “restricted” viewing setting — or by “demonetizing” them, which means PragerU doesn’t get ad revenue, even if the videos are widely viewed.

PragerU says it tried to work with YouTube for a year to get its videos off the site’s “restricted” list, and ended up receiving conflicting, vague and unhelpful answers from the company.

The complaint argues that singling out conservative voices for such treatment “is speech discrimination plain and simple” and says by doing so Google violated PragerU’s First Amendment rights, engaged in “unlawful discrimination under California law,” and violated its own terms of use.

Prager himself put it more simply: “Google, and their wholly owned company YouTube, apparently believe they can pick and choose who has free speech in this country.”

We can’t comment on how solid the legal ground is under the lawsuit, but it’s painfully obvious that Prager has a point about YouTube’s arbitrary and capricious handling of its videos.

One of them deemed inappropriate, for example, is a discussion with esteemed Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. Another is about e-cigarettes, and another is titled: “Ten Commandments: 6, Do Not Murder.”

How exactly is a video admonishing against murder “inappropriate” for sensitive viewers?

One of the “demonetized” videos was a PragerU Live talk with Bret Stephens, who is now a New York Times columnist.

PragerU also has compiled a long list of its videos that YouTube has restricted, along with similar videos that aren’t.

The best one: YouTube labeled a PragerU video titled “Why America must lead” as inappropriate, but not a video by Sen. John McCain titled … “Why America must lead.”

It even found instances where the exact same video was restricted when it appeared under the PragerU label, but not when it was posted by someone other than PragerU.

Prager is hardly the first conservative to complain about YouTube censorship, and such complaints aren’t limited to YouTube. Twitter has been accused of applying double standards to conservative speech, as has Facebook.

Yet all of these companies piously proclaim that they are dedicated to “net neutrality.” As Google put it on its own website, the internet must be a “level playing field” where people can “reach users on an equal footing.”

Of course, by “net neutrality” Google and others are talking about banning ISPs from charging different prices for different kinds of content as a way to manage the load on their networks.

But at the very least, Google should apply the same principle to itself that it demands from ISPs. Google can’t claim to be for a “level playing field” if it’s financially punishing those who don’t conform to its liberal orthodoxy.

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William Harvey Carney vs. Ingrate NFL Millionaires

Dear Ingrate NFL Millionaires,

Here is what a real man, William Harvey Carney, did back when America actually oppressed blacks:

Carney joined the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in March 1863 as a Sergeant. He took part in the July 18, 1863, assault on Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina. (The attack on Fort Wagner is depicted in the film Glory.) It was in this attack that Carney’s actions ultimately earned him the Medal of Honor. When the color guard was fatally wounded, Carney retrieved the American flag from his comrade and marched forward with it, despite suffering multiple serious wounds. When the Union troops were forced to retreat under fire, Carney struggled back across the battlefield. He eventually made his way back to his own lines and turned over the colors to another survivor of the 54th, modestly saying, “Boys, I only did my duty; the old flag never touched the ground!”

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