Thursday, March 08, 2018

Cruising the Web

David French writes about the pernicious quality of the left's newest ideology - "intersectionality."
While there’s not yet an Apostle’s Creed of intersectionality, it can roughly be defined as the belief that oppression operates in complicated, “interlocking” ways. So the experience of, say, a white trans woman is different in important ways from the experience of a black lesbian. A white trans woman will experience the privilege of her skin but also oppression due to her gender identity. A black lesbian may experience the privilege of “cis” gender identity but also oppression due to race and sexuality. It’s identity politics on steroids, where virtually every issue in American life can and must be filtered through the prisms of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Intersectionality privileges experiential authority, with each distinct identity group able to speak conclusively and decisively only about their own experience. So when an issue impacts trans rights, the trans community takes the lead. The responsibility of the rest of the community is to act, then, as their “allies.” If a racial issue comes to the fore — for example, in the context of protests over police shootings — then African Americans take the lead, and LGBT or women’s groups come alongside in support.

This is why you’ll often see activist organizations on the left tweet in support of people or causes that have little to do with the mission of the organization. When one part of the movement is threatened, the entire movement is threatened.
So not only are our entire identities subsumed within which victim class or classes we fall into, but only those within a victimized group can speak. Their experiences give them the power to speak out. Anyone who disagrees with the idea is illegitimate and must be excommunicated. The result has the hallmarks of a religion.
Dissenting women (such as Christina Hoff Sommers) or dissenting people of color often find that they’re vilified, shamed, and “no-platformed.”

For the in group, it’s easy to see the appeal of the philosophy. There’s an animating purpose — fighting injustice, racism, and inequality. There’s the original sin of “privilege.” There’s a conversion experience — becoming “woke.” And much as the Christian church puts a premium on each person’s finding his or her precise role in the body of Christ, intersectionality can provide a person with a specific purpose and role based on individual identity and experience.

The faith is fierce. Intolerance in the name of tolerance is the norm. Debate and dialogue are artifacts of scorned “respectability politics.” I’m reminded of the worst sorts of fundamentalist Christian sects, the kind that claim to take the Bible literally yet live as if mercy is alien to Scripture and that commands to “love your enemies” or “bless those who persecute you” somehow fell off the page. In the church of intersectionality, grace is nowhere to be found.

Indeed, you can often prove your faith through your ferocity. The right amount of rage, properly directed, can cover a multitude of sins. Do you wonder why the high priestesses of intersectionality — the leaders of the Women’s March — won’t condemn Louis Farrakhan? Because he’s been fighting their version of the good fight for generations. He’s an ally. He’s made all the right enemies.
Is it any wonder that honest discussion is so difficult now when those on the left feel that Louis Farrakhan has more authority because he's black and Muslim and that cancels out his hateful speech?

Christina Hoff Sommers is a prime example of a woman that many on the left feel has no right to speak because she betrays her gender by debunking some prize liberal myths such as the wage gap or that it is sexism which is holding down the numbers of women in STEM fields. She's written about how schools today favor the qualities of girls to the detriment of boys. That is heresy! Boys can't be victims.

So when she was invited to speak this week at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, the liberal groups gathered together to protest a "known fascist" from speaking on campus. Bari Weiss, who has faced her own attacks for daring to confront leftist nostrums, writes in the NYT,
The letter added that her invitation amounted to an “act of aggression and violence” and went on to offer a curious definition of free speech: “Freedom of speech is certainly an important tenet to a free, healthy society, but that freedom stops when it has a negative and violent impact on other individuals.”

Yes, these future lawyers believe that free speech is acceptable only when it doesn’t offend them. Which is to say, they don’t believe in it at all.
It doesn't say much for the education that these students are getting at Lewis & Clark Law School. Weiss comments on the ludicrous idea that someone who disagrees with the left must clearly be a fascist.
What happened to Ms. Sommers on Monday is a telling example of a wider phenomenon that reaches well beyond the confines of campus. Call it the moral flattening of the earth.

We live in a world in which politically fascistic behavior, if not the actual philosophy, is unquestionably on the rise. Italy just gave the plurality of its vote to a party that is highly sympathetic to Vladimir Putin. The Philippines is in the grip of a homicidal maniac who is allying himself with Xi Jinping. Mr. Xi just anointed himself president for life and has banned the words “Animal Farm” and “disagree” from Chinese internet searches. Bashar al-Assad is winning in Syria, where half a million people have so far been slaughtered. Dictatorship and starvation have descended on Venezuela. At its annual conference in Washington last month, the Conservative Political Action Committee gave its stage, and its enthusiastic applause, to a member of France’s National Front. That’s just a short list.

Yet these are generally not the extremists that leftists focus on. Instead, they seem to believe that the real cause for concern are the secret authoritarians passing as liberals and conservatives in our midst.
She then proceeds to give examples of writers and speakers who have been termed fascists if they dare to criticize identity politics. She searches for her own explanation of this casting of people who are not even really on the right as fascists and the desire of those denouncing them to attempt to make any disagreement seem so heretical that they should be blocked from speaking and writing.
But it is also a concerted attempt to significantly redraw the bounds of acceptable thought and speech. By tossing people like Mary Beard and Christina Hoff Sommers into the slop bucket with the likes of Richard Spencer, they are attempting to place their reasonable ideas firmly outside the mainstream. They are trying to make criticism of identity politics, radical Islam and third-wave feminism, among various other subjects, verboten. For even the most minor transgressions, as in the case of Professor Beard, people are turned radioactive.

There are consequences to all this “fascism” — and not just the reputational damage to those who are smeared, though there is surely that.

The main effect is that these endless accusations of “fascism” or “misogyny” or “alt-right” dull the effects of the words themselves. As they are stripped of meaning, they strip us of our sharpness — of our ability to react forcefully to real fascists and misogynists or members of the alt-right.

For a case study in how this numbing of the political senses works, look no further than Mitt Romney and John McCain. They were roundly denounced as right-wing extremists. Then Donald Trump came along and the words meant to warn us against him had already been rendered hollow.

Orwell warned that the English language “becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” He added, however, that “the process is reversible.”

Will true liberals do what it takes to reverse it? We can only hope so, because the battle against genuine authoritarian threats needs to be waged consistently, credibly and persuasively. For that to happen, words need to mean something. Calling women like Christina Hoff Sommers and Mary Beard fascists and racists only helps the other side.

Jake Tapper for one isn't buying this leftist intersectionality take on truly hateful speech.

YouTube's efforts to cleanse its site of objectionable materials has made some strange decisions.
At the same time that YouTube has increased censorship of right-of-center political channels, the company has sponsored a left-wing video maker who apparently believes that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were an “inside job” perpetuated by America’s own government.

Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, a fellow in YouTube’s multimillion-dollar “Creators for Change” program, made a since-deleted video that claimed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were an “inside job” by the American government. Al-Khatahtbeh uploaded the video in 2012 and touted it on social media. The video has since been deleted from YouTube but remains online in archived form ...

In the video, a hijab-clad Muslim woman walks onto a Manhattan train and declares that “9/11 was an inside job. Weapons of mass destruction don’t exist.”

It’s unclear whether YouTube was aware of the video when the company awarded Al-Khatahtbeh a fellowship.

It’s also unclear when Al-Khatahtbeh took the video down. Both YouTube and Al-Khatahtbeh declined detailed requests for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.

YouTube’s latest annual report for the “Creators for Change” program touted Al-Khatahtbeh’s 18,000 subscribers and the 881,000 video plays on her channel.

“Founder and editor-in-chief of MuslimGirl Amani Al-Khatahtbeh is a rising voice on social, religious and political issues. She was invited by Michelle Obama to speak at the 2016 United State of Women Summit,” the report said.
Of course.

Meanwhile, YouTube is purging conservative accounts.
YouTube enlisted 10,000 employees in December specifically to oversee accounts and the content they produce. And they seemed to be especially utilized during the aftermath of the mass school shooting in Parkland Florida. A number of highly erroneous conspiracy theories were peddled on the platform by a number of fringe accounts, and YouTube ultimately removed them, but not before they reached massive amounts of people.

The popular platform’s methods for confining and censoring users include demonetization (limiting or ridding of sponsorship, and thus revenue), implementation of “Restricted Mode,” and full suspension, a not as common tactic.

YouTube receives assistance in its content policing efforts from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a left-wing nonprofit, according to The Daily Caller. The SPLC has been scrutinized heavily in recent months after it labeled some innocuous and legitimate conservative organizations as “hate groups.”

Prager University (PragerU), a conservative organization that creates educational videos, is suing Google and YouTube for allegedly discriminating against it, particularly for its fairly moderate ideological slant. The digital media nonprofit is accusing the tech giant of both demonetizing its videos, and placing others under Restricted Mode, which can shut it off from thousands of potential viewers.

But while a YouTube spokeswoman said that there were likely some misapplications of rules that resulted in “mistaken removals” and they’ll reinstate any videos that were taken down in error, the tech representative also said that they’re “continuing to enforce our existing policies regarding harmful and dangerous content, they have not changed.”

After months of back and forth, PragerU was eventually told that its account restrictions were not part of a miscalculation, and were purposefully executed by its content moderation team.

Ben Shapiro comments on the policies that these tech firms have adopted that just happen to have the side effect of disadvantaging conservatives.
YouTube has demonetized videos from conservatives while leaving similar videos up for members of the Left. Prager University has watched innocuous videos titled “Why America Must Lead,” “The Ten Commandments: Do Not Murder,” and “Why Did America Fight the Korean War” demonetized (i.e. barred from accepting advertisements) at YouTube’s hands. Prager’s lawyer explains, “Google and YouTube use restricted mode filtering not to protect younger or sensitive viewers from ‘inappropriate’ video content, but as a political gag mechanism to silence PragerU.”

Facebook was slammed two years ago for ignoring conservative stories and outlets in its trending news; now Facebook has shifted its algorithm to downgrade supposedly “partisan” news, which has the effect of undercutting newer sites that are perceived as more partisan, while leaving brand names with greater public knowledge relatively unscathed. Facebook’s tactics haven’t just hit conservative Web brands — they’ve destroyed the profit margins for smaller start-ups like LittleThings, a four-year-old site that fired 100 employees this week after the algorithm shift reportedly destroyed 75 percent of the site’s organic reach (the number of people who see a site’s content without paid distribution).
The result will do more to increase partisanship than the companies imagine.
America has become more polarized in many ways. But the rise of the new media is a necessary corrective to the dominance of a thoroughly left-wing “objective” media. That model was supported, in large measure, by the freedom of social media — and by the freedom of the ad-based model that turned traffic into cash flow. Now that social media are reestablishing themselves as the gatekeepers, they’re actually exacerbating the news bubble by preventing Democrats from seeing conservative content, and even preventing conservatives from seeing conservative content so long as it’s been downvoted by Democrats. All of which means that the ad-based model has started to shrivel for news outlets, encouraging them to turn toward a subscription-based model — where, not surprisingly, legacy media have the upper hand.

The great irony here, of course, is that conservatives aren’t the ones threatening to regulate social media — that’s the Democrats. Conservatives may be the targets, but they’re not the threat. Nevertheless, the market of ideas will not be quashed so easily. Already, competitors are eyeing the crackdown by social-media companies and sensing an opening. The default Democrats at social-media giants may attempt to choke off the traffic and income valve for those with whom they disagree, but so long as the Internet remains a free market, they’re unlikely to succeed in the long term. They’re only likely to earn the scorn and ire of a huge percentage of Americans who feel that they’re being censored.

Walter Olson of CATO comments
on the news that Yale will not only not penalize students who get suspended when they walk out of school to protest against guns, but is impressed with students who are "versed in issues of social justice." An admissions director says that Yale supports student protests. Olsen wonders how far Yale's fondness for participation in student protests extends. Would it include someone who didn't embrace progressive positions?
Suppose a student had been deeply influenced by Friedrich Hayek’s “The Mirage of Social Justice.” After reading it, she had concluded social justice does not offer a particularly useful “take” on the moral problems of society, and that other standards—justice toward individuals, protection of personal rights, peace and nonaggression, neutral and impartial application of law—are better.

Now suppose she put that in her Yale application, knowing that screeners would be looking for some indication she was “versed in social justice.” Would it affect her chances of making the cut?

A similar scenario played out for Hayek, actually. Despite his illustrious career at the London School of Economics, he had trouble finding a suitable berth in American academia and eventually landed in a nonstandard appointment at the University of Chicago through its Committee on Social Thought. His thinking didn’t quite fit in, even though it was destined to become immensely influential in several fields.

Yale says it will overlook walkouts “for this or other causes.” To test that, an applicant might engage in a peaceful walkout for a cause of which the admissions staff disapproves—say, Second Amendment rights. But what high schooler would want to be that test case?

The issue is of principle, not law: As a private university, Yale is not subject to the First Amendment and need not guarantee applicants a neutral forum. It can set what standards it pleases, including screening out students who march for a not-Yale cause. By contrast, administrators in public high schools are barred from playing favorites, so they can’t approve or disapprove peaceful walkouts based on whether or not they approve of the cause.

That being said, Yale started out as a base for the training of Puritan clergy. One wonders whether it has really changed all that much.

Eugene Volokh observes that an age discrimination suit against Dick'S Sporting Goods and Walmart for refusing to see rifles to a 20-year-old may have a strong argument.
Oregon is one of the states that bans retailers from discriminating based on age against customers age 18 and above. The Oregon statute says it generally applies to any person who is "of age," which appears to mean 18, the age of majority in Oregon, at least for those products that are legal to sell to 18-to-20-year-olds (as long guns are in Oregon). Indeed, the statute specifically mentions alcohol and marijuana sellers for special treatment, but makes no such special provision for gun sellers:...

But this case isn't a common-law tort case, or a constitutional case, in which courts make decisions about what should or shouldn't be covered -- it's a case applying this particular statute in this particular state. And under this statute, the case seems open and shut for the plaintiff and against Dick's.
Another lawsuit has been filed in Michigan which has a similar age discrimination ban.
. Michigan law categorically prohibits age discrimination except where allowed by other provisions (which would include laws banning alcohol sales to under-21-year-olds, the federal law banning handgun sales by licensed gun dealers to under-21-year-olds, and the like)
This time they're being sued by an 18-year-old.. Volokh adds,
My question: Doesn't Dick Sporting Goods have a legal department? I'd think a company with stores nationwide would realize that age discrimination might be illegal in some states, would quickly review what those states might be, and would then simply set up a policy that excludes them. True, the companies are presumably trying to make a public statement with their no-gun-sales-to-under-21-year-olds policy; but that statement shouldn't be much diluted by an exception for some states when the explanation for the exception is that they have to comply with the law. And now the news is shifting to "Dick's Sporting Goods being sued for illegal discrimination" instead of "Dick's Sporting Goods is taking a stand to try to prevent gun crime," which was presumably Dick's goal.

Nor are these some sorts of obscure laws that would be a surprise even to company lawyers. Perhaps some city and county ordinances might be, though I take it that retailers are aware that localities sometimes have special rules; but state antidiscrimination laws, including ones that reach far beyond federal law, are well-known, and the fact that different states have different rules is, too. It shouldn't be a surprise that, even if many states don't ban age discrimination in retail sales, a substantial minority of states does. And nationwide bricks-and-mortar retailers must have learned over the decades that they need to think about laws being different in different states.

Now perhaps I'm expecting too much -- perhaps it's just that mistakes happen in business, and the failure to properly vet the policy is one of them. Or perhaps this wasn't a mistake, and Dick's deliberately thought that a blanket policy, even if it's illegal in some states, would get it much more public relations punch than a policy that excepted some states. Or perhaps the Dick's management has such a firm moral opposition to sales of rifles and shotguns to 18-to-20-year-olds that it doesn't mind a few lawsuits (though I suspect that, while some corporate managers are militantly opposed to selling guns, few would be fine with selling guns to 21-year-olds, but be so firmly opposed to selling to 20-year-olds that they'd deliberately violate the law as a result). In any case, this failure to take into account state antidiscrimination laws seemed like an odd business decision.

Ed Driscoll makes a good point. At a point when all the woke folks are wondering if they should condemn Woody Allen's 1979 movie "Manhattan" because the plot revolves around the love affair between a middle-aged man and a girl in high school, that's not the only modern film about a love affair with a teenager.
"Call Me By Your Name" also concerns a relationship between a 17 year old and an adult, except this time around they’re both of the same gender. Other than to troll Mike Pence, why isn’t this film considered equally problematic among today’s allegedly reformed denizens of Hollywood?
How different is a story about a guy in his twenties having an affair with a 17-year-old from the sorts of sexual advances that has driven Kevin Spacey out of the movie business?

I enjoyed Michael Graham's take on the Oscars.
When the guy who hosted the breast-obsessed “Man Show” appears onstage with an NBA player once accused of rape to give awards to people who spent decades doing business with Harvey Weinstein — you know Hollywood has gotten serious about sexual harassment.

I have no comment about the crop of overrated movies honored by the Academy Sunday night — other than to note that giving the Best Picture nod to “Handicapped Woman Has Sex With Fish Man, Is Saved By Communists” may be the most #Oscars! moment ever. What is worthy of notice is the nonstop self-congratulations from society’s most notoriously corrupt class, the Hollywood Left.

When Frances McDormand (an exceptional talent, by the way) asked every female nominee in the Dolby Theater to stand, all I could think of was the survey data showing 94 percent (!) of them had been sexually harassed or assaulted by their co-workers — including men sitting in that very room.

A USA Today survey of 843 women in Hollywood found that, not only did nearly every single one claim to have been harassed, but an astonishing 21 percent claim they were “forced to do something sexual at least once.”

Is there another industry with similar numbers? Is there a concept comparable to the “casting couch” in, say, medicine or accounting or the law? If so, it’s a well-kept secret — unlike the way Harvey Weinstein preyed upon women for decades.

That’s what made Sunday night’s celebration of #TimesUp activism so stomach-turning: If there is a vocation whose members have earned the right to lecture America on the acceptable treatment of women, it is absolutely, positively not the entertainment industry. Hollywood’s “Sexual Sanctity Status” ranks somewhere between illicit massage parlors and the Clinton White House.