Category Archive 'Politics'
14 Jun 2017

Typography and Politics

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Ben Hersh, at Backchannel, discusses the ability of different fonts to make cultural and political statements.

The US is not so different from the rest of the world when it comes to tribalism and conflicted identity. This has crystalized in last few months, and we’ve seen typography play a substantial role.

Hillary Clinton ran for president with a slick logo befitting a Fortune 100 company. It had detractors, but I think we’ll remember it fondly as a symbol of what could have been — clarity, professionalism, and restraint.

Donald Trump countered with a garish baseball cap that looked like it had been designed in a Google Doc by the man himself. This proved to be an effective way of selling Trump’s unique brand.

I’m not interested in whether Clinton or Trump had good logos. I’m interested in the different values they reveal. Clinton’s typography embodies the spirit of modernism and enlightenment values. It was designed to appeal to smart, progressive people who like visual puns. They appreciate the serendipity of an arrow that completes a lettermark while also symbolizing progress. In other words, coastal elites who like “design.”

Trump’s typography speaks with a more primal, and seemingly earnest voice. “Make America Great Again” symbolizes “Make America Great Again.” It tells everyone what team you’re on, and what you believe in. Period. It speaks to a distrust of “clean” corporate aesthetics and snobs who think they’re better than Times New Roman on a baseball cap. Its mere existence is a political statement.

The two typographies are mutually intelligible at first glance, but a lot gets lost in translation. We live in a divided country, split on typographic lines as cleanly as the Serbs and the Croats.

RTWT

03 Apr 2017

Dems Playing a Losing Hand in Phony Russiagate Scandal

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Kurt Schlichter (who has been on a roll lately) predicts the outcome of the fabricated Russiagate scandal.

If you’re stressed out about this whole Russian nonsense, relax – Donald Trump didn’t do anything wrong, and he’s not going be impeached, arrested, or ritually disemboweled. When the truth comes out and it explodes in the Democrats’ soft, girlish hands, we’ll all be laughing and toasting their humiliation with Stoli shots.

How do I know this with utter certainty? Because it’s all so glaringly obvious, and it’s the only scenario that fits the facts. As Hugh Hewitt says, this scandal has three silos. The first silo is the question of whether the Russians somehow “hacked our election.” The second silo is whether any Trump people “colluded” with the Russians. The third silo, the one patriots care most about since it’s the one that isn’t a ridiculous fantasy, is whether anyone in Obama’s administration used our intelligence apparatus to spy on his and Hillary’s political opponents. The answers are “No,” “No,” and “Yes.” The end results are going to be a stronger Trump, weaker Democrats, and various Obama minions exploring new career opportunities in the exciting fields of license plate-making, large-to-small rock transformation, and artisanal pruno distilling.

Read the whole thing.

27 Mar 2017

The New Civil War

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Dan Greenfield says the current conflict differs from the 19th Century Civil War in that the Left does not wish to secede, it wishes to rule.

A civil war has begun.

This civil war is very different than the last one. There are no cannons or cavalry charges. The left doesn’t want to secede. It wants to rule. Political conflicts become civil wars when one side refuses to accept the existing authority. The left has rejected all forms of authority that it doesn’t control.

The left has rejected the outcome of the last two presidential elections won by Republicans. It has rejected the judicial authority of the Supreme Court when it decisions don’t accord with its agenda. It rejects the legislative authority of Congress when it is not dominated by the left.

It rejected the Constitution so long ago that it hardly bears mentioning.

It was for total unilateral executive authority under Obama. And now it’s for states unilaterally deciding what laws they will follow. (As long as that involves defying immigration laws under Trump, not following them under Obama.) It was for the sacrosanct authority of the Senate when it held the majority. Then it decried the Senate as an outmoded institution when the Republicans took it over.

It was for Obama defying the orders of Federal judges, no matter how well grounded in existing law, and it is for Federal judges overriding any order by Trump on any grounds whatsoever. It was for Obama penalizing whistleblowers, but now undermining the government from within has become “patriotic”.

There is no form of legal authority that the left accepts as a permanent institution. It only utilizes forms of authority selectively when it controls them.

A must-read.

13 Jan 2017

1978: Paddy Chayefsky Answers Vanessa Redgrave (and Meryl Streep)

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07 Dec 2016

Donald Trump: Living Rent-Free in the MSM’s Head

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Donald Trump doesn’t know how to wear a suit or tie a necktie properly. He is a terrible speaker. He is a tonsorial disaster area. But, Scott Adams may be right about Trump possessing his own unique kind of political genius. His use of Twitter, for instance, is un-presidential, informal, inaccurate, careless, and frequently embarrassing, but he has tens of millions of followers who receive his messages directly, and every time he tweets he drives the establishment media crazy.

Gerard Van der Leun identified the process:

Since the election, Trump has continued to Tweet away. He’s called for Hamilton to be boycotted and flag-burning to be criminalised, and every time the same 10-part pattern unfolds and the whole thing starts again.

Each episode followed a familiar 10-part pattern:

1) Trump posts an inflammatory, highly opinionated tweet.

2) The media goes nuts.

3) Trump’s tweet then dominates the news all day.

4) The media demands he stops tweeting because it’s ‘un-presidential.’

5) Trump ignores them.

6) Conventional politicians demand he stops tweeting because it’s un-presidential.’

7) Trump ignores them too.

8) Trump wakes up next morning to every paper and cable news show talking about his tweet.

9) Trump chuckles to himself.

10) Trump tweets again.

Repeat.

24 Nov 2016

Thanksgiving With That Pansy Marxist Nephew, 2016 Edition

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Who better for the image of the pansy Marxist nephew than Hampshire College’s Daniel Vogel, the SJW who pulled down and burned the US flag the night before Veterans Day?

Kurt Schlichter wrote the script enabling you to be That Obnoxious Conservative Uncle this Thanksgiving.

Welcome Him to Dinner: Extend a hearty greeting, like “Good to see you! Of course, when I was 25, I spent Thanksgiving in a fighting position eating reconstituted pork patties, but your part time Chore Monkey gig is pretty much the same. Come on in!”

Be patient when he inquires whether you have anything “infused” or “curated,” and assure him that “Oh yeah, I got something locally sourced for you right here.”

Listen intently to his list of dietary restrictions, then helpfully explain that “Your vegan option is not eating.”

Explain that you won’t let him say the blessing because “I don’t want to hear an invocation to some weird goddess or any other blasphemous crap.”

Ensure that your prayer concludes “And we thank you for our police and firefighters, and for all our veterans, and for our warriors fighting evil across the globe. May you protect them and grant them total victory over our enemies.”

Don’t forget to be inclusive! “Oh, and let’s not forget the Chore Monkey guys. They’re heroes too in their own way, I guess.”

Break the Ice: Show some interest in him and his lifestyle. Politely inquire whether the Chinese character tattoo peeking out from under his doofy scarf means “Never hire me.”

Ask about his student loans, then do a calculation on your iPhone and tell him “Looks like you should have that all paid off by 2053!”

Also, make him comfortable by dropping some Millennial-friendly colloquialisms. For example, you can explain that you understand President Trump’s empowering message to normal Americans living outside of the liberal big cities because you are “Hella woke.”

Finally, inquire into his romantic life, but don’t pry. “No date again this year? So, I’m guessing your vibe is less Tinder, more Grindr?”

Give His Views the Respect They Deserve: Normally, when he tries to speak you would look at him and say “Shhh. The men are talking” – a “man” being someone who is both over 18 and not still living on mommy’s futon in the basement.

But if you do decide to amuse yourself by letting him talk, be sure to respond to whatever he says with “Is that what they taught you in your gender studies seminar?” And if he insists that “Hey, I was an engineering major!” respond “Oh, what do you build? Safe spaces?” and start giggling.

Understand His Sensitive Feelings About The Election: Hillary Clinton’s loss was a blow to many millennials, and he is likely to be emotionally fragile. You’ll want to ruthlessly exploit his pathetic weakness.

Always refer to “President Trump” and how he will “Make America great again.” Wear a MAGA hat to the table. Mention the “eight years of the Trump administration” and to what Justices Cruz and Willet will do to get the Supreme Court squared away again. Refer to Hillary as “Prisoner No. 59875779.”

Read the whole thing.

08 Nov 2016

Politics in Perspective

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“How small, of all that human hearts endure, That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.”

26 Sep 2016

Today’s Politics All About the Culture Wars

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Tim Black argues that choice of life-style has become politicized which in turn has inflamed politics.

In one of his last speeches as Labour leader in 2006, [Tony] Blair said that the new debate in politics was not left against right, but ‘open vs closed’ – openness to immigration, to diversity, and so on. And he was right. Politics has been waged as a war on those with supposedly ‘closed’ minds, those who ‘cling’ to older traditions and rituals, those who, in the case of Brexit, prefer a national democracy to a transnational oligarchy. And this year, the ‘closed’ fought back.

But there’s something else, too. Not only has culture been completely politicised, and turned into an object of public contestation; politics has also become culturalised, aestheticised. It has been turned into a way of expressing oneself, of marking one’s distinction to others, of showcasing one’s superior political taste – a question, as one Guardian journalist put it, of ‘who we are’. Being political today – whether that involves expressing one’s feminism, or proudly proclaiming ‘black lives matter’ – has become a way of saying something determinate not about the world, but about oneself, and, in the process, negating others. Conservative lettrist Joseph Epstein calls this new political type ‘the virtucrat’ – ‘the new prig… [who] will nail you for not having his opinion on Israel or the environment’. He is ‘a moral snob’, Epstein continues; ‘not only is he smug about the righteousness of his views but he imputes bad faith to anyone who doesn’t share them’.

And this is a profound problem. The aestheticisation of politics, the emergence of an intense political snobbery, lends debate an intractable, compromise-defying quality. It comes to appear not just as a conflict between utterly incompatible ways of life, but also as an intensely personal conflict, where arguments take the form of personal insults, and electoral defeats are experienced as personal affronts. In the strangely emotional reaction of Remainers to the referendum result, which included vituperative columns about racists in our midst, public tears and, absurdly, post-vote marches, one can see the the flipside of the polticisation of culture and lifestyle; the stylisation of politics, its mutation into a means not of winning the support of others, but of asserting their inferiority, of casting their lives into arbitrariness.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Matthias Storme.

18 Aug 2016

Duelling Nostalgias

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Rod Dreher reviews Yuval Levin’s The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism:

According to Levin, the great conceptual barrier to reforming and modernizing American politics is baby boomer nostalgia for the 20th-century Golden Age of their memories. He writes:

    Democrats talk about public policy as though it were always 1965 and the model of the Great Society welfare state will answer our every concern. And Republicans talk as though it were always 1981 and a repetition of the Reagan Revolution is the cure for what ails us. It is hardly surprising that the public finds the resulting political debates frustrating.

What neither side can see is that they expect the impossible. Generally speaking, liberals want maximal individual liberty in personal life, especially on matters related to sexual expression, but demand more state involvement in the economy for the sake of equality. Conservatives desire maximal economic freedom but lament the social chaos and dysfunction—in particular, the collapse of the family among the poor and working classes—that afflict American society. The uncomfortable truth is that what each side loathes is the shadow side of what it loves.

As Alan Ehrenhalt pointed out in The Lost City, his 1995 book about Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s, contemporary people lie to themselves about what things were like in the Golden Age. The thick social bonds and sense of community Americans enjoyed back then came at a significant cost—including cultural conformity and a lack of personal and consumer choice—that few of us today would tolerate. Ehrenhalt wrote that beginning in the 1960s, however, Americans embraced “the belief in individual choice and suspicion of any authority that might interfere with it.”

America’s political, social, and economic life of the last half-century has been a working-out of that belief—thus, the Fractured Republic. The inability of the U.S. political class, now dominated by boomers, to deal with the consequences prevents them from coming to terms with realities of the 21st-century world. We are stuck in what Levin describes as a “politics of dueling nostalgias.”

Read the whole thing.

13 Jul 2016

“Why Not the Third Amendment Too, Justice Ginsburg?”

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James Taranto, in the Wall Street Journal, delivered a devastating rebuke to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s recent political indiscretions in the course of a New York Times interview.

Ginsburg’s comments about Trump, which were somewhat vague if you read them closely, were less objectionable than many of the other things she said in the same interview. She also damned the Senate for declining to take up the high-court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland: “ ‘That’s their job,’ she said. ‘There’s nothing in the Constitution that says the president stops being president in his last year.’ ”

That’s literally true, but there’s also nothing in the Constitution that says the Senate stops being the Senate under any circumstances. Ginsburg is making a one-sided political argument and framing it as a constitutional mandate. Which, come to think of it, isn’t that different from her approach to jurisprudence. National Review’s Ed Whelan offers a backhanded compliment: “Let’s give her credit . . . for exposing, once again, how nakedly political she is.” …

It gets worse still. Liptak asked Ginsburg if there are “cases she would like to see the court overturn before she leaves it.” Her answer: “I’d love to see Citizens United overturned.” In that 2010 First Amendment case, the Federal Election Commission unsuccessfully claimed it had the authority to criminalize the distribution of a film critical of Hillary Clinton, whom Ginsburg has now implicitly endorsed for the presidency.

She also told Liptak that District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), which established that the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, was “a very bad decision,” adding (in Liptak’s words) “that a chance to reconsider it could arise whenever the court considers a challenge to a gun control law.” Lipsky reports that “the Times . . . seemed to want to protect Ginsburg from the fallout from this error of judgment, deleting it from the article until sharp-eyed readers called out the paper and the lines were restored.”

There’s no indication that Liptak asked Ginsburg if she also has designs on the Third Amendment. But if you wake up one morning and find a strange soldier on your couch, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

And that’s not all, folks. Ginsburg went on to reveal confidential information about the court’s deliberations during the term just ended. She disclosed how the late Justice Antonin Scalia voted in two cases on which the court deadlocked, and she asserted that Justice Elena Kagan would have joined the 4-3 majority to uphold racial discrimination in Fisher v. University of Texas, from which Kagan recused herself. “If Justice Kagan had been there, it would have been 5 to 3,” Ginsburg asserted.

So, to sum up: Ginsburg, in an on-the-record interview, took political positions on the presidential election and a Senate confirmation, indicated that she intends in future cases to vote to curtail constitutional rights, and violated the secrecy of the Supreme Court conference room.

17 May 2016

Know-Nothing-ism Redivivus

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Roger Cohen finds that everything old is new again: both the anti-immigrant passion of the late-1840s-early-1850s American Party and the America First isolationist movement of the late 1930s. Like Protectionism (which has been discredited for decades and decades after the Smoot-Hawley Tariff provoked a universal trade war which played an important role in the world-wide Great Depression), Nativism and Isolationism have been for a very long time looked upon as discredited political positions, which it would be intrinsically disgraceful and discrediting to embrace.

Donald Trump proved that none of the three grave historic fallacies of American politics was a third rail that killed candidacies any longer. His supporters in general didn’t know their history and didn’t care.

On the evidence, ethnocentrism is a pretty basic human instinct. Band together with your own. Keep the outsider down or out. In the 1850s, at another moment of American unease, the Know-Nothings swept Massachusetts and won mayoral elections in Philadelphia and Washington on a nativist platform to “purify” national politics by stopping the influx of Irish and German Catholics.

Papist influence was then the perceived scourge through which the Know-Nothing movement, as the Native American Party (later the American Party) was commonly known, built its following. Today the supposed threat is Muslim and Mexican infiltration. Or so Donald Trump, the de facto Republican presidential candidate, would have us believe in his “America First” program.

A know-nothing tide is upon us. Tribal politics, anchored in tribal media, has made knowing nothing a badge of honor. Ignorance, loudly declaimed, is an attribute, especially if allied to celebrity. Facts are dispensable baggage. To display knowledge, the acquisition of which takes time, is tantamount to showing too much respect for the opposition tribe, who know nothing anyway.

Any slogan can be reworked, I guess. America First has a long, unhappy history, the America First Committee having pressed the view that the United States should stay out of the war to defeat Fascism in World War II. …

Well, America First is back, tweaked as Trump’s we-won’t-be-suckers-anymore ideology. …

The know-nothings are on the march. But of course they must know something. Millions of people who vote for Trump cannot be wrong. Perhaps their core idea, along with the unchanging appeal of ethnocentrism, is that politics no longer really matter. Celebrity matters.

Power centers are elsewhere — in financial systems, corporations, technology, networks — that long since dispensed with borders. That being the case, loudmouthed, isolationist trumpery may just be a sideshow, an American exercise in après-moi-le-déluge escapism.

Read the whole thing.

14 May 2016

Why Are So Many Techies Lefties?

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Ulysses768 speculates on why his fellow millennial tech workers are so commonly left-wing politically.

I know there appears to be an easy answer for this question, demographics. Of course they are liberal, you may say. Their workers are mostly young and urban. They reside in Northern California, Boston, and New York. How could they be anything but liberal?

That is true, but they also consist of engineers and highly skilled immigrants. They are people who have worked hard and are well compensated. While many of their peers were “studying” sociology and women’s studies they were taking computer science and engineering courses. What they learned was rooted in logic and the physical world, not rehashed Marxism and utopian fantasies.

When I was growing up in Massachusetts, it made sense that my teachers were predominantly leftist. They belonged to a union and their pay was determined by how well they could scare the town into approving ever increasing school budgets and not by how well they did their jobs. I recall a great anticipation of reaching the working world where market forces would determine success and thus people would see the inherent benefits of individual liberty and classical liberal values.

Since graduating college I’ve been a naval officer, nuclear engineer, software engineer at an older tech company, and now one that is based in the Bay Area. Until now most of my fellow employees have appeared right of center, thus confirming my expectations. That’s not to say it isn’t a great place to work, it most certainly is. However, I am at a total loss to explain its culture or the cultures of other companies of its ilk.

I have a few theories, but I am not very confident in any of them. My definition of “new tech companies” are those that have been created or risen to prominence in the last 15 years, such as Twitter or Facebook.

The people are the same but the companies are more authoritarian. Motivated by a very competitive job market and empowered by financial success, these companies seek to engage with their employees at a new level. They encourage their employees to basically live at work, breaking down the professional and personal divide. This fosters an environment not unlike a university. Everyone must be careful not to offend and the needs of all must be accommodated at the expense of the few. The cultures of victimhood and blind acceptance find fertile soil, and people who disagree learn to keep quiet.

Newer tech companies are more software- and web-based than their predecessors. Therefore aesthetically pleasing design is more important to the success of their products. Therefore more creatives are required and creatives trend left of center.

College indoctrination has become so successful that it has bled into the hard sciences and engineering spaces. My fellow employees seem more liberal because they actually are more liberal.

Read the whole thing.

16 Apr 2016

Ancient Revolutionary Philosophy

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Emperor Ch’in Shih Huang Ti of the Ch’in dynasty ‘burning all the books and throwing scholars into a ravine’ in order to stamp out ideological nonconformity after the unification of China in 221 BC.

Ian Johnson reviews, in the New York Review of Books, Sarah Allan’s Buried Ideas: Legends of Abdication and Ideal Government in Early Chinese Bamboo-Slip Manuscripts, a study of ancient Chinese manuscripts written on bamboo slips containing the views of heretofore-unknown Ch’in-suppressed Chinese philosophic schools completely outside the familiar Confucian and Taoist traditions, views favoring meritocratic rather than hereditary dynastic government.

As Beijing prepared to host the 2008 Olympics, a small drama was unfolding in Hong Kong. Two years earlier, middlemen had come into possession of a batch of waterlogged manuscripts that had been unearthed by tomb robbers in south-central China. The documents had been smuggled to Hong Kong and were lying in a vault, waiting for a buyer.

Universities and museums around the Chinese world were interested but reluctant to buy. The documents were written on hundreds of strips of bamboo, about the size of chopsticks, that seemed to date from 2,500 years ago, a time of intense intellectual ferment that gave rise to China’s greatest schools of thought. But their authenticity was in doubt, as were the ethics of buying looted goods. Then, in July, an anonymous graduate of Tsinghua University stepped in, bought the soggy stack, and shipped it back to his alma mater in Beijing. …

The manuscripts’ importance stems from their particular antiquity. Carbon dating places their burial at about 300 BCE. This was the height of the Warring States Period, an era of turmoil that ran from the fifth to the third centuries BCE. During this time, the Hundred Schools of Thought arose, including Confucianism, which concerns hierarchical relationships and obligations in society; Daoism (or Taoism), and its search to unify with the primordial force called Dao (or Tao); Legalism, which advocated strict adherence to laws; and Mohism, and its egalitarian ideas of impartiality. These ideas underpinned Chinese society and politics for two thousand years, and even now are touted by the government of Xi Jinping as pillars of the one-party state.

The newly discovered texts challenge long-held certainties about this era. Chinese political thought as exemplified by Confucius allowed for meritocracy among officials, eventually leading to the famous examination system on which China’s imperial bureaucracy was founded. But the texts show that some philosophers believed that rulers should also be chosen on merit, not birth—radically different from the hereditary dynasties that came to dominate Chinese history. The texts also show a world in which magic and divination, even in the supposedly secular world of Confucius, played a much larger part than has been realized. And instead of an age in which sages neatly espoused discrete schools of philosophy, we now see a more fluid, dynamic world of vigorously competing views—the sort of robust exchange of ideas rarely prominent in subsequent eras.

These competing ideas were lost after China was unified in 221 BCE under the Qin, China’s first dynasty. In one of the most traumatic episodes from China’s past, the first Qin emperor tried to stamp out ideological nonconformity by burning books. … Modern historians question how many books really were burned. (More works probably were lost to imperial editing projects that recopied the bamboo texts onto newer technologies like silk and, later, paper in a newly standardized form of Chinese writing.) But the fact is that for over two millennia all our knowledge of China’s great philosophical schools was limited to texts revised after the Qin unification. Earlier versions and competing ideas were lost—until now.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Belacqui.

13 Mar 2016

“I Can Tolerate Anything, Except the Outgroup”

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Anti-Trump demonstrators confront Trump supporters in Chicago.

Scott Alexander reflects on American tribalism and the paradoxes of contemporary liberal tolerance.

The Emperor summons before him Bodhidharma and asks: “Master, I have been tolerant of innumerable gays, lesbians, bisexuals, asexuals, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, transgender people, and Jews. How many Tolerance Points have I earned for my meritorious deeds?”

Bodhidharma answers: “None at all”.

The Emperor, somewhat put out, demands to know why not.

Bodhidharma asks: “Well, what do you think of gay people?”

The Emperor answers: “What do you think I am, some kind of homophobic bigot? Of course I have nothing against gay people!”

And Bodhidharma answers: “Thus do you gain no merit by tolerating them!”…

Freud spoke of the narcissism of small differences, saying that “it is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and ridiculing each other”. Nazis and German Jews. Northern Irish Protestants and Northern Irish Catholics. Hutus and Tutsis. South African whites and South African blacks. Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs. Anyone in the former Yugoslavia and anyone else in the former Yugoslavia.

So what makes an outgroup? Proximity plus small differences. If you want to know who someone in former Yugoslavia hates, don’t look at the Indonesians or the Zulus or the Tibetans or anyone else distant and exotic. Find the Yugoslavian ethnicity that lives closely intermingled with them and is most conspicuously similar to them, and chances are you’ll find the one who they have eight hundred years of seething hatred toward. …

The people who are actually into this sort of thing sketch out a bunch of speculative tribes and subtribes, but to make it easier, let me stick with two and a half.

The Red Tribe is most classically typified by conservative political beliefs, strong evangelical religious beliefs, creationism, opposing gay marriage, owning guns, eating steak, drinking Coca-Cola, driving SUVs, watching lots of TV, enjoying American football, getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, and listening to country music.

The Blue Tribe is most classically typified by liberal political beliefs, vague agnosticism, supporting gay rights, thinking guns are barbaric, eating arugula, drinking fancy bottled water, driving Priuses, reading lots of books, being highly educated, mocking American football, feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, and listening to “everything except country”.

(There is a partly-formed attempt to spin off a Grey Tribe typified by libertarian political beliefs, Dawkins-style atheism, vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, eating paleo, drinking Soylent, calling in rides on Uber, reading lots of blogs, calling American football “sportsball”, getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, and listening to filk – but for our current purposes this is a distraction and they can safely be considered part of the Blue Tribe most of the time)

I think these “tribes” will turn out to be even stronger categories than politics. Harvard might skew 80-20 in terms of Democrats vs. Republicans, 90-10 in terms of liberals vs. conservatives, but maybe 99-1 in terms of Blues vs. Reds. …

The worst reaction I’ve ever gotten to a blog post was when I wrote about the death of Osama bin Laden. I’ve written all sorts of stuff about race and gender and politics and whatever, but that was the worst.

I didn’t come out and say I was happy he was dead. But some people interpreted it that way, and there followed a bunch of comments and emails and Facebook messages about how could I possibly be happy about the death of another human being, even if he was a bad person? Everyone, even Osama, is a human being, and we should never rejoice in the death of a fellow man. One commenter came out and said:

    I’m surprised at your reaction. As far as people I casually stalk on the internet (ie, LJ and Facebook), you are the first out of the “intelligent, reasoned and thoughtful” group to be uncomplicatedly happy about this development and not to be, say, disgusted at the reactions of the other 90% or so.

This commenter was right. Of the “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people I knew, the overwhelming emotion was conspicuous disgust that other people could be happy about his death. I hastily backtracked and said I wasn’t happy per se, just surprised and relieved that all of this was finally behind us.

And I genuinely believed that day that I had found some unexpected good in people – that everyone I knew was so humane and compassionate that they were unable to rejoice even in the death of someone who hated them and everything they stood for.

Then a few years later, Margaret Thatcher died. And on my Facebook wall – made of these same “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people – the most common response was to quote some portion of the song “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead”. Another popular response was to link the videos of British people spontaneously throwing parties in the street, with comments like “I wish I was there so I could join in”. From this exact same group of people, not a single expression of disgust or a “c’mon, guys, we’re all human beings here.”

I gently pointed this out at the time, and mostly got a bunch of “yeah, so what?”, combined with links to an article claiming that “the demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure’s death is not just misguided but dangerous”.

And that was when something clicked for me. …

[M]y hypothesis, stated plainly, is that if you’re part of the Blue Tribe, then your outgroup isn’t al-Qaeda, or Muslims, or blacks, or gays, or transpeople, or Jews, or atheists – it’s the Red Tribe. …

One of the best-known examples of racism is the “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” scenario where parents are scandalized about their child marrying someone of a different race. Pew has done some good work on this and found that only 23% of conservatives and 1% (!) of liberals admit they would be upset in this situation. But Pew also asked how parents would feel about their child marrying someone of a different political party. Now 30% of conservatives and 23% of liberals would get upset. Average them out, and you go from 12% upsetness rate for race to 27% upsetness rate for party – more than double. Yeah, people do lie to pollsters, but a picture is starting to come together here.

(Harvard, by the way, is a tossup. There are more black students – 11.5% – than conservative students – 10% – but there are more conservative faculty than black faculty.)…

There was a big brouhaha a couple of years ago when, as it first became apparent Obama had a good shot at the Presidency, Michelle Obama said that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.”

Republicans pounced on the comment, asking why she hadn’t felt proud before, and she backtracked saying of course she was proud all the time and she loves America with the burning fury of a million suns and she was just saying that the Obama campaign was particularly inspiring.

As unconvincing denials go, this one was pretty far up there. But no one really held it against her. Probably most Obama voters felt vaguely the same way. I was an Obama voter, and I have proud memories of spending my Fourth of Julys as a kid debunking people’s heartfelt emotions of patriotism. Aaron Sorkin:

    [What makes America the greatest country in the world?] It’s not the greatest country in the world! We’re seventh in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, No. 4 in labor force, and No. 4 in exports. So when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the f*** you’re talking about.

(Another good retort is “We’re number one? Sure – number one in incarceration rates, drone strikes, and making new parents go back to work!”)

All of this is true, of course. But it’s weird that it’s such a classic interest of members of the Blue Tribe, and members of the Red Tribe never seem to bring it up.

(“We’re number one? Sure – number one in levels of sexual degeneracy! Well, I guess probably number two, after the Netherlands, but they’re really small and shouldn’t count.”)

My hunch – both the Red Tribe and the Blue Tribe, for whatever reason, identify “America” with the Red Tribe. Ask people for typically “American” things, and you end up with a very Red list of characteristics – guns, religion, barbecues, American football, NASCAR, cowboys, SUVs, unrestrained capitalism.

That means the Red Tribe feels intensely patriotic about “their” country, and the Blue Tribe feels like they’re living in fortified enclaves deep in hostile territory.

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to Claire Berlinski.

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