What Goes Around

Conservative media and Fox News in particular have spent years – decades, if you count talk radio – training their audiences to believe that exhortations against sexism and racism are nothing but the “political correctness” police trying to kill your good time. … You can’t tell people, day in and day out, that nothing is more fun than putting some mouthy broad in her place and then get upset when they continue to think it’s fun, even when the mouthy broad is one of yours.

— Amanda Marcotte “Why Fox News’ Defense of Megyn Kelly is Going to Backfire

This week’s featured articles are “Hey, Nerds! Politics is a System. Figure it out.” and “Protesting in Your Dreams“.

This week everybody was talking about Hurricane Katrina

which hit New Orleans ten years ago Saturday. A bunch of interesting retrospectives have appeared.

Slate posted “The Myths of Katrina“, including the notion that “no one could have predicted” what happened. In fact, the gist of the disaster appeared in a local newspaper article three years earlier: the levee failures, and what would happen next:

Amid this maelstrom, the estimated 200,000 or more people left behind in an evacuation will be struggling to survive. Some will be housed at the Superdome, the designated shelter in New Orleans for people too sick or infirm to leave the city. Others will end up in last-minute emergency refuges that will offer minimal safety. But many will simply be on their own, in homes or looking for high ground.

… Hundreds of thousands would be left homeless, and it would take months to dry out the area and begin to make it livable. But there wouldn’t be much for residents to come home to. The local economy would be in ruins

The anniversary is an ambivalent moment. New Orleans is a viable city again, so that’s worth celebrating. But the recovery has been uneven, with upscale neighborhoods rebuilding quickly and many poorer areas still full of abandoned homes.

The new New Orleans is a smaller, somewhat wealthier, and definitely whiter city; about 100,000 of its black Katrina-refugees never returned. As 538 elucidates, these losses were concentrated among middle-income and upper-income blacks, particularly the young professionals. Among whites it’s the reverse: young white professionals and entrepreneurs are flocking in. Jacobin comments about one gentrifying neighborhood:

The declining poverty rate does not speak to some miraculous redistribution of wealth to working-class families, but rather to their forced exit amid a corresponding influx of high-income residents.

and another shooting

This one happened on live television.

With every new shooting, we go through the motions of trying to put gun control back on the agenda. But (as Dan Hodges summed up in a tweet) Newtown really kicked the life out of that movement. If massacres of white professional-class school children are acceptable, requiring not even a smidgen of change, it’s hard to raise energy to try again.

If you do decide to try again, Vox has collected data for you and presented it well. Two things stood out for me:

  • We’re averaging about one mass shooting (i.e., 4+ victims) per day. So if the aftermath of a mass shooting is not an appropriate time to talk about gun control (because that would “politicize tragedy”), then there will never be an appropriate time.
  • States with a lot of guns have about the same number of suicides-by-other-means as states with fewer guns, but quadruple the number of firearm-suicides. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that guns cause suicides. Remember that the next time you think about buying a gun. Someday you’ll be depressed, and you’ll know that gun is sitting there.

and 2016

A second poll confirms that Bernie Sanders really is ahead in New Hampshire. Another poll suggests he’s making serious gains in Iowa.

I’m getting increasingly annoyed at the media coverage of both Sanders and Clinton.

You know which 2016 candidate is consistently drawing the biggest crowds? Not Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders. (BTW, Sanders beats Trump 45%-37% in a head-to-head match-up. So which one is the more serious candidate?)

And yet Bernie’s ability to draw a crowd is not news. Whether Trump’s recent rally in Alabama was bigger or smaller than Sanders’ rallies Portland and Los Angeles is open to interpretation. (Some estimates of Trump’s crowd were marginally larger than Sanders’.) But what’s not open to interpretation is the coverage: The news networks hyped Trump’s rally before it happened and treated it like a major event afterwards. But the sizes of Sanders’ crowds, when they get mentioned at all, are presented as weird little factoids.

When Sanders gets encouraging poll numbers, like the recent NH and Iowa ones I just mentioned, nobody says, “Wow! People really like this guy.” Nobody focuses on what he’s saying or why it’s inspiring so much enthusiasm. Instead, the story is about Clinton’s weakness: Democrats are so dissatisfied with Hillary that even Bernie Sanders might beat her in New Hampshire and Iowa.

And that brings me to the Clinton coverage, which has been even worse. The only stories you hear about Clinton consist of something-might-be-wrong-somewhere speculation about her emails. And yet, if you stick to the facts, it’s hard to justify the claim that anything actually is wrong. I’ve had a hard time finding a clear statement of what might be wrong, or a clear accusation whose truth or falsehood could be established. Quite likely this is Benghazi or Filegate or Vince Foster all over again.

I don’t see the media applying this maybe-something-somewhere-might-turn-out-to-be-bad standard to any other candidate. Rick Perry is under indictment. Scott Walker had an election-fraud investigation quashed under questionable circumstances by Wisconsin’s partisan Supreme Court. Like Clinton, Jeb Bush used a private email account while governor, and decided for himself which emails to release to the public. Marco Rubio has received “hundreds of thousands of dollars” of personal assistance from a billionaire he’s done political favors for.

Is any of that getting Clinton-style coverage? Coverage based on imagining what might turn out to be wrong (if new incriminating evidence somehow appears) rather than restricting attention to what we actually know? I’m not saying those stories should get that kind of attention, but why is the Clinton-email story getting it?

Frank Bruni explores the mystery of why Donald Trump seems to be the choice of the GOP’s Evangelical Christian wing:

Let me get this straight. If I want the admiration and blessings of the most flamboyant, judgmental Christians in America, I should marry three times, do a queasy-making amount of sexual boasting, verbally degrade women, talk trash about pretty much everyone else while I’m at it, encourage gamblers to hemorrhage their savings in casinos bearing my name and crow incessantly about how much money I’ve amassed?

Has anybody seen a camel pass through the eye of a needle lately? That would explain it. Crooks and Liars compares Trump’s indifference to religion in his own life to Dick Cheney’s draft-dodging:

Right-wingers … don’t really care about whether a candidate or elected official has lived in accordance with their values. What they want is a candidate or elected official who will use their values (or, frankly, use anything) as a club to beat the people they don’t like — Democrats, liberals, immigrants, Muslims.

A standard applause line at Trump rallies is when he says the Bible is his favorite book, but when pressed in an interview to pick out one or two favorite verses, he had no answer. In her recent interview with Trump, Sarah Palin referred to this as a “gotcha” question — I suppose because you can’t expect a good Christian to remember phrases like “the 23rd Psalm” or “the Sermon on the Mount” off the top of his head.

Trump hasn’t produced any TV ads yet. (Whether or not he’ll spend the serious money necessary to buy TV time is my main criterion for determining whether he’s seriously running for president or just using his campaign to build his brand.) So Jimmy Kimmel made one for him:

Kimmel satirizes of the vagueness of Trump’s message, but that’s precisely what makes it dangerous: Trump’s vaguely targeted anger allows his audiences to imagine him railing against whatever makes them angry. Hence the calls of “white power” from his Alabama supporters.

The New Yorker has more:

On June 28th, twelve days after Trump’s announcement, the Daily Stormer, America’s most popular neo-Nazi news site, endorsed him for President: “Trump is willing to say what most Americans think: it’s time to deport these people.” The Daily Stormer urged white men to “vote for the first time in our lives for the one man who actually represents our interests.” …

Jared Taylor, the editor of American Renaissance, a white-nationalist magazine and Web site based in Oakton, Virginia, told me, in regard to Trump, “I’m sure he would repudiate any association with people like me, but his support comes from people who are more like me than he might like to admit.”

Trump also has earned the support of David Duke and various other white nationalists. He hasn’t sought their endorsements, but he doesn’t have to. He’s angry at a lot of the same people they hate. The exact why doesn’t matter.

Another implication of vagueness is even scarier: Without a lot of specific policy ideas, or a coherent political philosophy, or a political viewpoint expressed consistently through the years, the Trump campaign by default becomes a cult of personality. Trump’s America will be “great again” not because of any specific thing it will do, but because of him. Our greatness will follow from the greatness of our leader.

I think that’s why words like fascist are starting to crop up, and comparisons to Europe’s far-right movements.

and you also might be interested in …

When talking about the poor, it helps to have data about who they are.

Here’s the scariest thing I saw this week.

A front page contributor on Red State comments:

There is no vocal advocate of Donald Trump’s GOP candidacy in 2016 that would tell you this publically, but I’ll bet $20 that a significant plurality of Trump’s backers feel what the women in this Youtube video below feel on a daily basis. They would only demur because they are sick and tired of being accused of racism for feeling the way they feel.

and let’s close with some reassurance

Whatever you did this week, you didn’t screw up this badly.

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  • Carol Wheeler  On August 31, 2015 at 11:08 am

    I guess I understand why no one ever mentions the fact that the U.S. is the most bloodthirsty nation in the world (with the possible exception of our client-state Israel) in connection with our own domestic slaphappy shootings, but come on–you? Don’t you believe there’s any connection at all, with our out-of-sight spending for our military and the fact that our people kill people, our own people, at such an astounding rate? Is it only Michael Moore who ever noticed this? I guess it’s just too strong to even think about, let alone bring up. But it is SO Freudian not to even mention.

    • weeklysift  On August 31, 2015 at 7:36 pm

      I have not done the research to back this up, but I believe we were a violent society before we became a military power.

    • Larry Benjamin  On September 1, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      Israel is bloodthirsty, but Hamas is just defending itself?

      • weeklysift  On September 2, 2015 at 9:49 am

        As I mentioned a few months ago, “bloodthirsty” is a particularly poor choice of words when talking about Israel, given the whole blood-libel thing.

  • eganvarley  On September 1, 2015 at 3:15 am

    About mass shooting, a possible solution here : http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/31/us-should-mandate-gun-insurance

    • Kelly Schoenhofen  On September 1, 2015 at 10:40 am

      And not to cherry pick, but that would have helped Sandyhook how?

      • JELC  On September 1, 2015 at 1:33 pm

        Insurance companies would almost certainly require background checks before they would sell a gun insurance policy to someone. If you have to have the insurance to get the gun, the entire process of trying to get background checks is taken care of by the insurer. It’s essentially background checks by stealth.

        However, I don’t really think it’s any more likely to succeed than trying to get background checks implemented by itself would.

    • Larry Benjamin  On September 1, 2015 at 6:07 pm

      The kind of people who would go on mass shooting rampages or would use guns in other crimes, probably wouldn’t buy gun insurance.

      • weeklysift  On September 2, 2015 at 10:02 am

        But if such people and their uninsured guns came to the attention of police in some relatively harmless situation, they could be handled then. Now we have to wait for the killing spree to start.

      • Larry  On September 2, 2015 at 12:38 pm

        Unless you’re proposing universal gun registration, it’s unlikely that owners of uninsured guns would necessarily come to the attention of law enforcement at all, since there wouldn’t be any way to know who they were. And if all guns were registered, insurance wouldn’t be needed.

  • felix  On September 1, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    Reporting is strongly biased toward making any contest seem more even than it is, because it fits a simplistic ideal of fairness/balance, and uncertainty is what keeps people watching for updates. So there’s a tendency to overreport weaknesses and underreport strengths in strong candidates, and the reverse in weak candidates. This happens in any subject, not just politics.

    • weeklysift  On September 2, 2015 at 9:51 am

      So why aren’t I hearing more about how strong Bernie Sanders is?

  • Anonymous  On September 1, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white:
    I think that they just redefined “genocide.” I think the new meaning might be “People telling you to stop being racist.”

    • weeklysift  On September 2, 2015 at 9:59 am

      This is what happens when people want to apply “fair” rules to an unfair situation. Whites claimed all the cookies, so of course they’re picked out when other peoples want the cookies shared. If Zimbabwe were consuming most of the world’s resources, then immigrants would be flocking there and demanding citizenship.

      • mysanal  On September 5, 2015 at 11:15 pm

        I couldn’t even finish watching the video. It made me nauseous.

  • Corey Fisher  On September 3, 2015 at 5:06 am

    The article about the Clinton email scandal you linked, when talking about “sticking to the facts” not seeming to produce anything, is presented pretty damningly. I don’t know how much it’s actually sticking to the facts (it’s not something I know a lot about, the only particular thing is that I know is missing there is mention that other officials have done the same thing), but it does actually present a couple legitimate questions that can be answered (with difficulty). The big ones being how did it interact with classified documents and was Clinton actively attempting to use a grey area to evade oversight. The first one might have actual legal implications, and the second, while not illegal, would show that she’s finding loopholes and avoiding the spirit of the law, which has good reason to affect perception of her – it’s an insight into what kind of actions she would probably take as President.

    Again, I don’t know a lot about the situation, and it may be that you’re right and there isn’t much solid to ask about at this point (perhaps we’ve already had a negative answer about there being classified emails, for example), but the article you linked doesn’t actually support that.

    • Larry Benjamin  On September 3, 2015 at 6:36 am

      With the recent hacks into official U.S. government data, Clinton’s personal server may have been MORE secure than the State Dept. one she was supposed to be using.

    • weeklysift  On September 3, 2015 at 7:45 am

      The “might have legal implications” part is exactly what I was talking about — speculation, based on the idea that something damning will eventually come out, even if it hasn’t yet.

      So far, we don’t have evidence that any law was broken or that national security was compromised. As I listed, there are a lot of candidates who might have avoided the spirit of some law. None of that is front-page news.

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