From Theodore Dalrymple:
There is no racist like an antiracist: That is because he is obsessed by race, whose actual existence as often as not he denies. He looks at the world through race-tinted spectacles, interprets every event or social phenomenon as a manifestation of racism either implicit or explicit, and in general has the soul of a born inquisitor.
That is why a recent cartoon in the Australian newspaper aroused the ire—I suspect the simulated ire, the kind of pleasantly self-righteous ire that we can all so easily work ourselves into if and when we want—of the guardians of racism purity.
The cartoon in question was by Bill Leak (who is no respecter of persons), and it showed a group of impoverished Indians sitting on the ground trying to eat some shards of smashed-up solar panels that had been given to them by the United Nations. One of them says, “It’s no good, you can’t eat them.” Another replies, “Hang on, let me try one with a bit of mango chutney.” The title of the cartoon was “Aid à la Mode.”
It was obvious to me that this was intended as a satirical comment on the deliberations of the recent climate conference in Paris, and not on poor Indians. The cartoonist meant to imply that climate change was principally the concern of the spoiled political class of rich nations, and that efforts to reduce worldwide carbon emissions from energy consumption would not benefit the desperately poor, quite the reverse: Rather they would inhibit the breakneck industrial growth that has lifted and is lifting so many millions out of abject poverty in countries that not long ago were deeply impoverished. There is even the suspicion that rich nations want to inhibit the breakneck industrial growth not so much to save the planet as to preserve their position relative to poor nations. At the very least, the cartoon was a variation on the old English proverb that fine words butter no parsnips; but it could also plausibly be interpreted as a protest against dishonest Western moral and intellectual imperialism.
But that is not how the entrepreneurs of outrage chose to interpret it. Instead they chose to interpret it as a deliberate slur on the capacities and intelligence of ordinary Indians, who (they claimed) were depicted as so stupid and backward that they did not understand the benefits of harnessing and using solar energy. The fact that, even after so much rapid economic growth, millions of Indians would understandably be more concerned with obtaining their next meal than with the alleged fate of the planet was missed by the deliberate obtuseness of these entrepreneurs of outrage, an obtuseness motivated by their desire to “maintain their rage” (to quote a former Australian prime minister addressing his supporters on being deprived of office).
Now, I have no idea whether the harnessing of solar energy is a sensible policy for India, or whether it would merely be an opportunity for corruption and illicit private enrichment on a vast scale—or both, of course, since they are not diametrically opposed.
No one who has experienced the pollution in India or China could doubt that it is a very serious problem (as it is, to a lesser degree, in the South of France, where one can detect the pollution by the smell and gritty quality of the air as one approaches within fifty kilometers of Marseille), though whether such pollution can be dealt with only or even significantly by the use of solar energy is another question. But it is not the function of cartoonists to present a balanced view of a complex question; their method is the reductio ad absurdum of the side with which they disagree.
The reaction to the cartoon, however, was indicative of what one might call the will to outrage. This will precedes any object to which it might attach, and many people wait as if in ambush for something to feel angry about, pouncing on it with leopard-like joy (the leopard, so I was told in Africa, is particularly dangerous, for it kills for pleasure and not only for food).
Outrage supposedly felt on behalf of others is extremely gratifying for more than one reason. It has the appearance of selflessness, and everyone likes to feel that he is selfless. It confers moral respectability on the desire to hate or despise something or somebody, a desire never far from the human heart. It provides him who feels it the possibility of transcendent purpose, if he decides to work toward the elimination of the supposed cause of his outrage. And it may even give him a reasonably lucrative career, if he becomes a professional campaigner or politician: For there is nothing like stirring up resentment for the creation of a political clientele.
Antiracism is a perfect cause for those with free-floating outrage because it puts them automatically on the side of the angels without any need personally to sacrifice anything. You have only to accuse others of it to feel virtuous yourself. There is no defense against the accusation: The very attempt at a defense demonstrates the truth of it. As a consequence of this, it is a rhetorical weapon of enormous power that can be wielded against anybody who opposes your views. It reduces them to silence.
I once used the accusation myself in a most unscrupulous way, just to see its effect. About twenty years ago I was in the company of right-thinking people (that is to say, people who thought differently from me), among whom was an eminent human rights lawyer of impeccably internationalist outlook. She was speaking with characteristic self-righteousness about a case in which someone’s newly discovered human rights had been infringed. It was shortly after the Rwandan genocide had taken place and, fed up by her moral complacency, I accused her of racism. How could she concern herself with this case, I demanded to know, when half a million people or more had just been slaughtered and the perpetrators were unpunished (as at that time they still were)? Was it because she was racist and did not consider that all those lost lives were important because they were black?
It was a preposterous thing to say, of course, completely unjust and without any foundation, and I knew it. What interested me, however, was the panic on the face of the lawyer as I accused her. It was as if I had accused St. Simeon Stylites of harboring secret sexual desires and proclivities on top of his pillar, particularly at night. She was rattled, not because what I said had any truth in it, but because it was difficult or impossible to demonstrate to the assembled company that there was none. They might therefore have thought, because there is no smoke without fire, that she was indeed not entirely free of racism. For a moment—but, of course, not for long—she feared for her auto-sanctity.
I have not used the rhetorical trick since, but something similar might be usefully employed against the detractors of Bill Leak. They are the racists, because they refuse to believe that Indians may have different interests and opinions.
From Jason L. Riley:
Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect.
— Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
The great lie of the summer has been the Black Lives Matter movement. It was founded on one falsehood—that a Ferguson, Mo., police officer shot a black suspect who was trying to surrender—and it is perpetuated by another: that trigger-happy cops are filling our morgues with young black men.
The reality is that Michael Brown is dead because he robbed a convenience store, assaulted a uniformed officer and then made a move for the officer’s gun. The reality is that a cop is six times more likely to be killed by someone black than the reverse. The reality is that the Michael Browns are a much bigger threat to black lives than are the police. “Every year, the casualty count of black-on-black crime is twice that of the death toll of 9/11,” wrote former New York City police detective Edward Conlon in a Journal essay on Saturday. “I don’t understand how a movement called ‘Black Lives Matter’ can ignore the leading cause of death among young black men in the U.S., which is homicide by their peers.”
Actually, it’s not hard to understand at all, once you realize that this movement is not about the fate of blacks per se but about scapegoating the police in particular, and white America in general, for antisocial ghetto behavior. It’s about holding whites to a higher standard than the young black men in these neighborhoods hold each other to. Ultimately, it’s a political movement, the inevitable extension of a racial and ethnic spoils system that helps Democrats get elected. The Black Lives Matter narrative may be demonstrably false, but it’s also politically expedient.
It’s the black poor—the primary victims of violent crimes and thus the people most in need of effective policing—who must live with the effects of these falsehoods. As the Black Lives Matter movement has spread, murder rates have climbed in cities across the country, from New Orleans to Baltimore to St. Louis and Chicago. The Washington, D.C., homicide rate is 43% higher than it was a year ago. By the end of August, Milwaukee and New Haven, Conn., both had already seen more murders than in all of 2014.
Publicly, law-enforcement officials have been reluctant to link the movement’s antipolice rhetoric to the spike in violent crime. Privately, they have been echoing South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who said in a speech last week that the movement was harming the very people whose interests it claims to represent. “Most of the people who now live in terror because local police are too intimidated to do their jobs are black,” the governor said. “Black lives do matter, and they have been disgracefully jeopardized by the movement that has laid waste to Ferguson and Baltimore.”
Over a three-day stretch last week, the New York Times ran two heart-wrenching stories about black mothers of murdered children. Tamiko Holmes, a Milwaukee native, has seen two of her five children shot dead this year and a third wounded by gunfire. Sharon Plummer of Brooklyn lost a 16-year-old son on Aug. 30. He was gunned down while standing on a street corner two blocks away from where his 17-year-old brother was shot dead three years earlier. After the older child’s death, Ms. Plummer moved to a safer community, but the younger son repeatedly returned to the old neighborhood to hang out with friends. She didn’t move to escape predatory cops, which is what the Black Lives Matter activists would have us believe. Rather, she moved to protect her children from their predatory peers.
Asked recently about the increase in violent crime, New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton said what precious few public officials and commentators have been willing to say. He stated the obvious. “We have, unfortunately, a very large population of many young people who have grown up in an environment in which the . . . traditional norms and values are not there,” Mr. Bratton told MSNBC. The commissioner added that Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 report warning that the disintegration of the black family could lead to other social ills had proved prescient. “He was right on the money,” Mr. Bratton said, “the disintegration of family, the disintegration of values. There is something going on in our society and our inner cities.”
But the left has no interest in discussing ghetto pathology. Summer movies like “Straight Outta Compton” are too busy glorifying it, and summer books like Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me” are too busy intellectualizing it. The Black Lives Matter crowd has become an appendage of the civil-rights industry, which uses the black underclass to push an agenda that invariably leaves the supposed beneficiaries worse off.
Shortly after the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, Pennsylvanian Republican Alexander McClure met with Abraham Lincoln in the White House urging him to remove Ulysses S. Grant from command:
I appealed to Lincoln for his own sake to remove Grant at once, and, in giving my reasons for it, I simply voiced the admittedly overwhelming protest from the loyal people of the land against Grant’s continuance in command. I could form no judgment during the conversation as to what effect my arguments had upon him beyond the fact that he was greatly distressed at this new complication. When I had said everything that could be said from my standpoint, we lapsed into silence. Lincoln remained silent for what seemed a very long time. He then gathered himself up in his chair and said in a tone of earnestness that I shall never forget: ‘I can’t spare this man; he fights.’
Today, the Republican establishment again wants to remove a fighter.
From Thomas Sowell:
Even those of us who are not supporters of either Donald Trump or Jeb Bush can learn something by comparing how each of these men handled people who tried to disrupt their question-and-answer period after a speech.
After Bush’s speech, hecklers from a group called “Black Lives Matter” caused Bush to simply leave the scene. When Trump opened his question-and-answer period by pointing to someone in the audience who had a question, a Hispanic immigration activist who had not been called on simply stood up and started haranguing.
Trump told the activist to sit down because someone else had been called on. But the harangue continued, until a security guard escorted the disrupter out of the room. And Jeb Bush later criticized Trump for having the disrupter removed!
What kind of president would someone make who caves in to those who act as if what they want automatically overrides other people’s rights — that the rules don’t apply to them?
Trump later allowed the disrupter back in, and answered his questions. Whether Trump’s answers were good, bad or indifferent is irrelevant to the larger issue of rules that apply to everyone. That was not enough to make “The Donald” a good candidate to become President of the United States. He is not. But these revealing incidents raise painful questions about electing Jeb Bush to be leader of the free world. The Republican establishment needs to understand why someone with all Trump’s faults could attract so many people who are sick of the approach that Jeb Bush represents.
From Thomas Sowell:
Baltimore is now paying the price for irresponsible words and actions, not only by young thugs in the streets, but also by its mayor and the state prosecutor, both of whom threw the police to the wolves, in order to curry favor with local voters.
Now murders in Baltimore in May have been more than double what they were in May last year, and higher than in any May in the past 15 years. Meanwhile, the number of arrests is down by more than 50 percent.
Various other communities across the country are experiencing very similar explosions of crime and reductions of arrests, in the wake of anti-police mob rampages from coast to coast that the media sanitize as “protests.”
None of this should be surprising. In her carefully researched 2010 book, “Are Cops Racist?” Heather Mac Donald pointed out that, after anti-police campaigns, cops tended to do less policing and criminals tended to commit more crimes.
If all this has been known for years, why do the same mistakes keep getting made?
Mainly because it is not a mistake for those people who are looking out for their own political careers. Critics who accuse the mayor of Baltimore and the Maryland prosecutor of incompetence, for their irresponsible words and actions, are ignoring the possibility that these two elected officials are protecting and promoting their own chances of remaining in office or of moving on up to higher offices.
Racial demagoguery gains votes for politicians, money for race hustling lawyers and a combination of money, power and notoriety for armies of professional activists, ideologues and shakedown artists.
So let’s not be so quick to say that people are incompetent when they say things that make no sense to us. Attacking the police makes sense in terms of politicians’ personal interests, and often in terms of the media’s personal interests or ideological leanings, even if what they say bears little or no resemblance to the facts.
Of course, all these benefits have costs. There is no free lunch. But the costs are paid by others, including men, women and children who are paying with their lives in ghettos around the country, as politicians think of ever more ways they can restrict or scapegoat the police.
The Obama administration’s Department of Justice has been leading the charge, when it comes to presuming the police to be guilty — not only until proven innocent, but even after grand juries have gone over all the facts and acquitted the police.
Not only Attorney General Holder, but President Obama himself, has repeatedly come out with public statements against the police in racial cases, long before the full facts were known. Nor have they confined their intervention to inflammatory words.
The Department of Justice has threatened various local police departments with lawsuits unless they adopt the federal government’s ideas about how police work should be done.
The high cost of lawsuits virtually guarantees that the local police department is going to have to settle the case by bowing to the Justice Department’s demands — not on the merits, but because the federal government has a lot more money than a local police department, and can litigate the case until the local police department runs out of the money needed to do their work.
By and large, what the federal government imposes on local police departments may be summarized as kinder, gentler policing. This is not a new idea, nor an idea that has not been tested in practice.
It was tested in New York under Mayor David Dinkins more than 20 years ago. The opposite approach was also tested when Dinkins was succeeded as mayor by Rudolph Giuliani, who imposed tough policing policies — which brought the murder rate down to a fraction of what it had been under Dinkins.
Unfortunately, when some people experience years of safety, they assume that means that there are no dangers. That is why New York’s current mayor is moving back in the direction of Mayor Dinkins. It is also the politically expedient thing to do.
And innocent men, women and children — most of them black — will pay with their lives in New York, as they have in Baltimore and elsewhere.
Hillary Clinton in recent months has done the following:
She charged UCLA somewhere around $300,000 for reciting some platitudes. That works out to over $165 a second for her 30 minutes on stage — meaning that she made more in one minute than a student barista does in a year.
Ms. Clinton acknowledges that, while secretary of state, she solicited donations from wealthy foreign nationals for her family foundation, whose funds she and her husband have frequently tapped for exclusive travel and other expenses.
Everything Ms. Clinton has said recently seems to be demonstrably untrue: Only one of her grandparents, not all four, was an immigrant. One does not need to have two smartphones to have two e-mail accounts. She did not regularly e-mail her husband. One does not secure a server by having a guard on the premises. A cabinet officer does not communicate exclusively on a private e-mail account via a private unsecured server. High government officials do not themselves adjudicate which e-mails are private and which public — and then wipe clean their accounts to avoid an audit of such decision-making.
The multimillionaire Ms. Clinton, fresh from jabs against hedge funds and inordinate CEO pay, also just bought lunch at a fast-food restaurant and left no tip in the jar, before parking her car in a handicapped zone at another stop. How is all this connected?
Ms. Clinton’s private ethics are, as usual, a mess, both in the sense of failing to follow legal protocols and tell the truth, and in the less formal sense of price-gouging cash-strapped universities, failing to show some tiny generosity to the working classes, and abusing accommodations intended to help the disabled.
But Ms. Clinton’s public ethics are loud and clear: She damns the effects of private money in polluting politics; she is furious about Wall Street profit-making; she is worried about the compensation of the struggling middle class. Indeed, so concerned is Hillary Clinton about the pernicious role of big money and the easy ability of our elites to make huge profits without traditional sweat and toil that she might well have to lecture her own son-in-law, who manages a multimillion-dollar hedge fund. Or better yet, Ms. Clinton’s advisers might warn her that in order to stop the pernicious role of big money in politics, she may be forced to top Barack Obama’s record fund-raising and rake in an anticipated $2.5 billion for the 2016 election.
Is there a pattern here? The more Hillary Clinton sounds cosmically egalitarian and caring, the more she acts privately like a stingy 1 percenter who does not consider that the laws and protocols that apply to other people must apply to herself. This is probably no accident, given that the quest for cosmic justice usually empowers private injustice.
The provost of Stanford University recently wrote a letter to campus faculty and staff to address a perceived epidemic of student cheating. One report had suggested that 20 percent of the students in a large introductory course were suspected of exam misconduct. At about the same time as this new alarm, Stanford students had one of their customarily raucous meetings, in which student-body officials voted to urge the university to divest from many companies doing business with Israel. Does democratic Israel pose a greater moral challenge to Stanford students than their own propensity to lie and cheat in order to promote their careers? Are there more courses taught at Stanford on Aristotle’s Ethics or on race/class/gender -isms and -ologies?
I just received another of the periodic reminders from the university that all faculty and staff who have assistants must complete sexual-harassment training. Indeed, walk across the Stanford plaza or peruse the catalogue of courses, and it is clear that Stanford students are inundated with therapeutic instruction on how to think properly about race, class, gender, and global warming — on how to think correctly about everything in the abstract, but not on how to think about how to take a test honestly. How can such sophisticated moralists be prone to such unsophisticated sins as cheating? In such a postmodern landscape, how can there be vestiges of pre-modern wrongdoing? Anyone who regularly parks a bicycle on the Stanford campus — renowned for its efforts to encourage green energy — with a modest bike cable, rather a heavy steel security system, in due time will have it stolen. Is that called postmodern theft?
As a professor in the California State University system for 21 years, I noted two developments. Therapeutic-studies courses increased at a rapid clip, but even more so did cheating — especially with the advent of new technology. Nothing is more surreal than reading a student’s boilerplate critiques of traditional American culture — and with a brief Google search finding his sentences lifted word for word from the Internet.
I am not suggesting that there is a direct connection between the new political correctness and an epidemic of personal dishonesty — only that at best the former has done nothing to discourage the latter, and at worst PC seems to delude students into thinking that if they are morally correct on universal issues, then they deserve some pass on what they consider minor fudging in their own particular lives. How can one effectively fight racism or global warming if one does not use the tools at one’s disposal to get an influential job upon graduation?
Of course, everyone can be hypocritical at times. But this new epidemic of progressive personal asymmetry is a bit different from what we were accustomed to not so long ago. Bill Clinton can hang with a man convicted of soliciting an underage girl for prostitution, and fly on his private plane, which is customarily stocked with bought pleasure girls — but only if he reassures us that he is a committed feminist. Harvard faculty can lecture us on our ethical shortcomings, while they outsource classes to grad students and adjuncts who are making a fraction of their own compensation per course. They are loud supporters of unionization everywhere but among graduate students and part-timers at Harvard.
Frequent White House guest Al Sharpton is a tax cheat, a homophobe, and an inciter of riot and mayhem, with a long history of racial disparagement. But he knows that all that private sin is contextualized by his loud sermonizing on the supposed racism of white America. Eric Holder can fly his daughters and their boyfriends to the Belmont Stakes on a government jet — but only because he is Eric Holder, who periodically blasts America’s supposed ethical reactionaries. Is progressivism among our elites now mostly a careerist con game? Ask departed cabinet officers like Lisa Jackson or Hilda Solis whether their own ethical lapses were overshadowed by their politically correct politics.
According to the laws of feminism, women should not latch onto ambitious alpha males to enhance their own professional trajectories; certainly they do not put up with chronically two-timing husbands either for the continuance of financial security or because of worries about the viability of their own careers. Yet Hillary seems to think that her loud feminist credentials are a sort of insurance policy, preventing anyone from daring to accuse her of accepting the gender roles of the 1950s.
The danger of the new hard-left progressivism is that the old sins of greed, connivance, and malfeasance are now offset by assertions of cosmic morality. The ostentatiously green Solyndra could hardly be thought of as shaking down operators in the Obama administration to provide a sweetheart loan for the crony-capitalist architects of a money-losing mess. Al Gore is so worried about how corporate culture promotes damage to the planet that he was forced to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars for his own green corporations to warn us about other such cynics. He is so shocked about CO2 emissions and the global petroleum culture that he unloaded his underperforming and overpriced cable channel to a carbon-exporting, anti-Jewish autocratic sheikhdom that paid him handsomely with its petrodollars.
Michelle and Barack Obama are so concerned about global warming that not long ago they left two huge carbon footprints, when simultaneously they took separate government jumbo jets to fly out to Los Angeles to appear on separate talk shows. This was worthy of Leonardo DiCaprio, who on his private jet flew to conferences on the carbon excesses of hoi polloi. Elizabeth Warren is so committed to a fair and just society where egalitarianism is the shared goal, and where we assume that no one creates anything without the government, that she and her husband often augmented the generous incomes from their Harvard law professorships with lucrative corporate consulting to achieve 1 percenter status, with nearly $1 million in annual income.
The avatars of modern progressivism are not distinguishable in the lives that they live from the targets of their attack. Those on campus who talk the most loudly of the bane of white privilege at Harvard or Stanford do not live like poor whites in Tulare or El Paso, who have no privilege, racial or financial. The pajama-boy progressives of Cambridge or Menlo Park can enjoy their white privilege freely — but only by damning it in others. (Do such young campus auditors ever drive down to a Bakersfield brake shop to explain to its grease-smeared mechanics in the pit that, being white, they enjoy too much racial advantage?) The Obamas and the progressive black elite have to decry stereotyping, profiling, and the prejudices of low expectations; only by such preemptive doublespeak can they jet to horse races with impunity or put their children in Sidwell Friends rather than in the Washington, D.C., public schools.
The Left created a culture of pajama-boy elites, one that sought cosmic absolution for its own privilege by attacking the less privileged — and then they called this ethical desert progressivism.