Bruce Momjian

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Thoughts The Unbearable Smugness of the Press

Thursday, November 10, 2016

This sober cbs News article contains many soul-searching observations about journalists. Rarely do I read such a radical, self-critical article that lays things so bare:

This is all symptomatic of modern journalism's great moral and intellectual failing: its unbearable smugness. Had Hillary Clinton won, there's be a winking "we did it" feeling in the press, a sense that we were brave and called Trump a liar and saved the republic.

So much for that. The audience for our glib analysis and contempt for much of the electorate, it turned out, was rather limited. This was particularly true when it came to voters, the ones who turned out by the millions to deliver not only a rebuke to the political system but also the people who cover it. Trump knew what he was doing when he invited his crowds to jeer and hiss the reporters covering him. They hate us, and have for some time.

And can you blame them? Journalists love mocking Trump supporters. We insult their appearances. We dismiss them as racists and sexists. We emote on Twitter about how this or that comment or policy makes us feel one way or the other, and yet we reject their feelings as invalid.

It's a profound failure of empathy in the service of endless posturing. There's been some sympathy from the press, sure: the dispatches from "heroin country" that read like reports from colonial administrators checking in on the natives. But much of that starts from the assumption that Trump voters are backward, and that it's our duty to catalogue and ultimately reverse that backwardness. What can we do to get these people to stop worshiping their false god and accept our gospel?

We diagnose them as racists in the way Dark Age clerics confused medical problems with demonic possession. Journalists, at our worst, see ourselves as a priestly caste. We believe we not only have access to the indisputable facts, but also a greater truth, a system of beliefs divined from an advanced understanding of justice.

You'd think that Trump's victory — the one we all discounted too far in advance — would lead to a certain newfound humility in the political press. But of course that's not how it works. To us, speaking broadly, our diagnosis was still basically correct. The demons were just stronger than we realized.

The rest of the article is equally illuminating. It explains a lot — not only the incorrect polls, but the voting surge for a candidate who almost every "learned" source dismissed. ("Hillary received the endorsement of nearly every newspaper and magazine that issued one.")

Not since Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan has so much anti-establishment angst been generated in the usa. (The recent Brexit vote was a European manifestation of this phenomenon.) This angst is going to take a long time to play out.

In a way, we are still living the Reagan Era, which was a reaction to the fdr era before it. If Hillary had been elected, this might have been the start of a new era, but it was not meant to be.

Update: Thoughtful analysis by a Democratic Party insider 2016-11-12

Update: Thoughtful analysis by a Republican 2016-11-14

Update: Another Democratic analysis 2016-11-22

 


History Messengers from Moscow

Friday, July 8, 2016

This excellent video series (parts 1, 2, 3, 4) gives unique insight into the history of the Soviet Union. The final twenty minutes describing the ussr's last decade is unique in its clarity. An interview of Andrei Grachev (Deputy Head of the Central Committee's International Department, 1989-1991) is particularly insightful:

Gorbachev actually sorted the final blow to the existence of the Soviet Union by killing the fear of the people because, still, this country was governed and kept together as the structure, as the state structure, by the fear inherited from Stalin's times. The other thing that was keeping this country together was the invented outside threat. So Gorbachev's foreign policy confirmed to the people that there was no danger from outside — actually played a bad or a good joke with his country, because it then didn't have any particular reason to keep the structure of this game, and then it fell apart.

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Community United Kingdon Votes to Leave the European Union

Monday, June 27, 2016

The United Kingdon has voted to leave the European Union (aka "Brexit"). (The uk has never been part of the Eurozone or the Schengen border-free travel area (diagram)).

This vote snuck up on many people because there was so little official support for an exit among the uk establishment. I started to follow it after watching Brexit: The Movie, which, while one-sided, made some strong points:

  • Eu regulations mimic the over-regulated post-World War II British economy that lasted until Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979.
  • The eu has an opaque structure that makes it unresponsive to public feedback.

This excellent Wall Street Journal article has some amazing quotes:

  • "That slender majority was probably the biggest slap in the face ever delivered to the British establishment in the history of universal suffrage."
  • "Many of the Brexiteers think that Britain voted this week to follow a template set in 1776 on the other side of the Atlantic."

It also reads like a soap opera:

  • "The EU took a gamble: that the Brits were bluffing and would never vote to leave."
  • Cameron "rather overdid it. Instead of fear, he seemed to have stoked a mood of mass defiance."
  • "Mr. Obama also overdid it …"
  • "The EU has become a coalition of the unwilling, the place where the finest multilateral ambitions go to die."
  • "To many voters in Britain, this referendum was about whether they want to be linked to such tragic incompetence."

This paragraph about immigration is also telling:

The economists who warned about the perils of Brexit also assure voters that immigration is a net benefit, its advantages outweighing its losses. Perhaps so, but this overlooks the human factor. Who loses, and who gains? Immigration is great if you're in the market for a nanny, a plumber or a table at a new restaurant. But to those competing with immigrants for jobs, houses or seats at schools, it looks rather different. And this, perhaps, explains the stark social divide exposed in the Brexit campaign.

David Cameron's polite and decisive resignation speech sealed the deal.

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Thoughts President Obama and "Radical Islam"

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

In this video, President Obama makes interesting points about how the use of the term "radical Islam" can lead to damaging public policies.

Update: Rebuttal of some of Obama's points 2016-06-15

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Thoughts How the Pentagon Punished Nsa Whistleblowers

Friday, May 27, 2016

This article explains that Edward Snowden had few reasonable options for esposing nsa spying except the way he did it.

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Thoughts Donald Trump Is Going To Win

Friday, May 27, 2016

This philosophical Salon article explains that the attraction of Donald Trump to voters rests in a desire to return the country to a more concrete, less international, focus:

The neofascist reaction, the force behind Trump, has come about because of the extreme disembeddedness of the economy from social relations. The neoliberal economy has become pure abstraction; as has the market, as has the state …. Americans, like people everywhere rising up against neoliberal globalization … want a return of social relations, or embeddedness, to the economy.

The second half of the article is disjointed, but has some interesting points.

What is also clear from the article is that, even if Donald Trump is elected, he will be able to change little because economic forces are so strong. Under the banner of globalization, manufacturing moved to Asia in recent decades, and now immigrant labor is moving to more developed countries to fill service jobs that can't be easily exported.

While the United States has always been a country of immigrants, limited immigration in the second half of the 20th century allowed wages to climb. Stagnant us wages of the past few decades indicate that period is over. Economic migrants, mixed with some war refugees for cover, are also flooding Europe, with similar disruptions. The logical conclusion is that "neoliberal globalization" will continue until the gap between wages and the cost of living will be even across the globe.

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Thoughts The Challenge of Easter

Friday, April 1, 2016

This interesting Wall Street Journal article explains that the radical message of Easter has prevented it from being commercialized.

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Thoughts Trump's America

Friday, February 12, 2016

This article explains that the popularity of Donald Trump is based on a desire to return to the US core values of egalitarianism, liberty and individualism.

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Community Europe's New Medieval Map

Friday, January 15, 2016

This article explains the great challenges facing modern Europe:

Today, as the European Union suffers one blow after another from within and without, history is reversing course — toward a debilitating complexity, as if the past half-century were just an interregnum before a return to fear and conflict.

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