The Demagogue’s Playbook

By Eric Posner. This podcast episode with Posner is excellent.

What, according to Posner, is a demagogue?

“Despite it’s overuse, ‘demagogue’ has a core meaning that has remained stable over millennia. It refers to a charismatic, amoral person who obtains the support of the people through dishonesty, emotional manipulation, and the exploitation of social divisions; who targets the political elites, blaming them for everything that has gone wrong; and who tries to destroy institutions—legal, political, religious, and social—and other sources of power that stand in their way. The demagogue is frequently considered to be (and in many cases actually is), crude, vulgar, and violent—contemptuous of manners, civility, and norms, which the demagogue sees as structures that keep the elites in power.”

Reminds me of someone, I just can’t put my finger on it.

Tuesday’s Required Reading

1. What Anti-racist Teachers Do Differently.

“I have witnessed countless black students thrive in classrooms where teachers see them accurately and show that they are happy to have them there. In these classes, students choose to sit in the front of the class, take careful notes, shoot their hands up in discussions, and ask unexpected questions that cause the teacher and other classmates to stop and think. Given the chance, they email, text, and call the teachers who believe in them.”

2. The Tesla of masks. How ’bout it Captain?

3. Take this new and improved personality quiz. Isn’t there still a built-in complication–our inherently subjective sense of self?

4. Democratic ad makers think they’ve discovered Trump’s soft spot.

. . . unlike four years ago, they are no longer focusing on his character in isolation — rather they are pouring tens of millions of dollars into ads yoking his behavior to substantive policy issues surrounding the coronavirus, the economy and the civil unrest since the death of George Floyd.”

5. France bans Dutch bike TV ad for ‘creating climate of fear’ about cars’.

6. Corina Newsome: A birder who happens to be Black.

Happy Birthday USA?

In the (dis)United States, we’re living in historic times, not just an every 50 year Civil Rights movement seeking racial and economic justice for people of color, but a slow and steady decline in our quality of life relative to other developed countries. Even though we’re too close to see it and too proud to acknowledge it, we’re a couple decades into a seismic, century long shift in our relative position.

Here are the numbers for those in denial like Michael Medved and Michael you know who.

The U.S. Is Lagging Behind Many Rich Countries. These Charts Show Why.

In today’s New York Times, David Brook’s explores our “crisis of the spirit” in “The National Humiliation We Need”.

He believes:

“Our fixation on the awfulness of Donald Trump has distracted us from the larger problems and rendered us strangely passive in the face of them. Sure, this was a Republican failure, but it was also a collective failure, and it follows a few decades of collective failures.

On the day Trump leaves office, we’ll still have a younger generation with worse life prospects than their parents had faced. We’ll still have a cultural elite that knows little about people in red America and daily sends the message that they are illegitimate. We’ll still have yawning inequalities, residential segregation, crumbling social capital, a crisis in family formation.”

I agree.

When Police Kill

Alex Tabarrok has an excellent book review of When Police Kill by Franklin Zimring (2017).

Tabarrok ends with this Zimring quote:

[Police killings]…are a serious problem we can fix. Clear administrative restrictions on when police can shoot can eliminate 50 to 80 percent of killings by police without causing substantial risk to the lives of police officers or major changes in how police do their jobs. A thousand killings a year are not the unavoidable result of community conditions or of the nature of policing in the United States.

Rest in Peace Hachalu Hundessa

Hachalu Hundessa, 34, known for political songs that provided support for the ethnic Oromo group’s fight against repression and a soundtrack for antigovernment protests, has been shot dead in Addis Ababa.

The killing has “risked heightening tensions in a nation taking stuttering steps toward establishing a multiparty democracy.” August elections have been “postponed” due to the pandemic.

Hundessa’s songs mobilized millions of Oromos across Ethiopia.

“On Tuesday, news of Mr. Hundessa’s death led to protests in the capital and other parts of Ethiopia, with images and videos on social media showing hundreds congregating at the hospital where his body was taken.

Internet service across the country was shut down at approximately 9 a.m. local time, according to Berhan Taye, an analyst at the nonprofit Access Now. The move, she said, ‘is simply driving confusion and anxiety among Ethiopians and the diaspora’ especially as they seek ‘credible, timely information” at such a time of crisis.'”

Hundessa’s importance:

“Haacaaluu has given sound and voice to the Oromo cause for the past few years. His 2015 track Maalan Jira (‘What existence is mine’), for example, was a kind of an ethnographic take on the Oromo’s uncertain and anomalous place within the Ethiopian state. This powerful expression of the group’s precarious existence quietly, yet profoundly, animated a nationwide movement that erupted months later. Maalan Jira became the soundtrack to the revolution.

It is beautiful.

Understanding Seattle

The President and his Fox News co-workers don’t ever reference Seattle’s history. Because they don’t care about it. All they care about is reinforcing stereotypes of people of color being prone to violence.

For historical context, we need Margaret O’Hara’s, “Don’t Be Fooled by Seattle’s Police-Free Zone”.

The heart of the matter:

“Discriminatory mortgage lending and racially restrictive covenants limited Seattle’s nonwhite population to a single neighborhood, the Central District. Fair housing laws opened up new parts of the city and suburbs to minority homeowners and renters after the 1960s, but Seattle’s overwhelmingly single-family zoning limited the housing available to new buyers.

Such zoning has been remarkably difficult to change. The region’s homeowners may vote Democratic and plant racial solidarity signs in their front yards, but often resist higher densities that can increase the affordable housing supply.”

O’Hara sees things getting better:

“. . . this season of pandemic and protest. . . . is forcing our city to reckon with truths that can and should make white citizens like me uncomfortable, and that remind us just how much Seattle is like the rest of America: impossibly divided, and impossibly full of hope.”

Pressing Pause On A ‘National Conversation On Race’

Everyday brings more examples. People regularly write, speak, and/or behave in ways a majority of people would deem racially insensitive, if not outright racist. What should we do about that?

It seems like we’ve decided to make the consequences so severe that the racially insensitive have no choice but to suppress their racist tendencies. Dox them, ostracize them, fire them from their jobs.

Conservative Republicans, who not always, but often are racially insensitive, are quick to label this “cancel culture” which only adds to their persecution complex and makes them even more defensive on subjects of race.

Personally, at this time of heightened racial consciousness, I’m most interested in what militant black men and women are thinking. The more militant, the more I tune in.

Historically, there have been repeated calls by progressives of all colors for a “national conversation on race”. As a life-long educator, that strategy is my preferred one, but I’m not hearing militants make many, if any references to “conversation”.

Maybe that’s because conversation requires slowing down in order to address mutual defensiveness. Instead, activists are accelerating demands for long sought for changes which makes total sense given our collective attention deficit disorder. How long until the media spotlight shifts? In essence, strike now for legislative protections against state-sponsored violence; strike now for the removal of Confederate statues, flags, and related symbols; strike now to destroy white supremacy in whatever form.

As a pro-conversation educator, I’m out of step with the times. Which is okay. Just know I’ll be committed to the conversation long after the spotlight shifts.

 

A Public Service Announcement

For right wing reactionaries. Read. The. Room.

Chuba Hubbard starts Oklahoma State boycott after Mike Gundy pictured in OAN shirt.

“The nation’s top running back could lead a boycott against his own coach. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State’s Heisman contender, is threatening to sit out of all team activities after seeing a picture posted of head coach Mike Gundy wearing a t-shirt promoting One America News Network, a right-wing station. ‘I will not stand for this’ Hubbard tweeted. ‘This is completely insensitive to everything going on in society, and it’s unacceptable. I will not be doing anything with Oklahoma State until things CHANGE.'”

If you don’t believe there’s structural racism in the (dis)United States, you may want to think through a little more carefully the t-shirts you wear, what you write, what you say, and whom you associate with. More simply, if you want to keep your job, start reading the room. Which has shifted, markedly, in short order.

As conservatives are screaming, of course Gundy has the right to wear whatever t-shirt he wants when he goes fishing.

And Jemele Hill has the right to tweet the truth:

Screen Shot 2020-06-16 at 10.30.29 AM

More specifically, his players are free to not follow his leadership. Or transfer. And recruits are free not to choose Oklahoma State.

In the end, out-of-step right wing coaches are free to field less talented teams, and to lose games, then fans, meaning money.

And in the end, university President’s are free to fire them. If the Presidents’ are not fired first for not reading the room themselves.

 

West Pointless

Robin Wright in The New Yorker, “Trump’s Vacuous West Point Address and the Revolt Against It.”

Could it be, a faux Conservative Republican losing the military establishment?

Ironically, for being so media savvy, Trump is not an orator. This was further confirmation:

“In contrast to the tradition of big ideas and new initiatives, Donald Trump’s first graduation address at West Point was vacuous—or, as Slate put it, in a headline, ‘West Pointless.’ Danny Sjursen, of the Class of 2005, who is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and also a former West Point instructor, noted that Trump said nothing to heal a fractured nation. He didn’t address the protests over racial injustice which are taking place in more than two thousand America cities. . . . He didn’t mention a single theatre of U.S. military operations—not Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or the many places where special forces are deployed or U.S. warplanes have bombed,’ Sjursen, who has chronicled Presidential appearances at West Point since Kennedy, told me.

Trump also offered no words of comfort about the coronavirus pandemic—or thanks to the cadets for the most complicated commencement address ever held at West Point. It was a stark and lonely graduation, because family and friends could not attend. The cadets paraded onto an empty field, in white face masks and their famed gray jackets, to sit on white folding chairs more than six feet apart. Instead of marching onstage to get their degrees, they exchanged salutes with Trump from a distance. It was another Trump photo op—writ large.”

How do you really feel Barry McCaffrey?

“Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star general from the Class of 1964, who taught at West Point, called Trump’s address ‘a collection of awkward, badly delivered bromides. It was dead, disjointed. The good news is that it’s over.'”

Exactly what we’ll say on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021.