Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Why the Culture War is Ruining Journalism, Academia, and Charity

Barry Rubin

"He who tells the truth is driven from nine villages." – Turkish Proverb

A couple of decades ago, I was invited to a conference on the anniversary of the birth of Isaiah Berlin. One of the speakers was the George Orwell professor of a British university.
But his ideas were the opposite of Orwell. Orwell was a great patriot. On the contrary, this guy's definition of a nation was any random lines drawn on a map–no preconditions. He was no patriot. I guess a nation having values is invalid now.

Also, Orwell was an anti-radical socialist, author of the amazing anti-radical Animal-Farm, and a milder, anti-totalitarian socialist who admired the United States. In contrast, the endowed professor had the opposite ideas and real politics of Orwell.  After I challenged him on these modern "Progressive" (leftist) points, nobody spoke to me for the rest of the conference, because they just assumed what he said was true.

If you want to know a contemporary story about this, I can refer to an experience at a conference where a professor (George Orwell professor in fact, was a great patriot, though a socialist) made jokes.

But then I thought about Berlin himself. He championed values of pluralism and individual liberty, against political correctness and enforced orthodoxy.

There are two issues at stake. First, the moderate liberal-conservative democratic consensus–Orwell and Berlin–staked out these margins. This was the mainstream of democracy and democratic opinion: The "vital center." Today, this has been rejected in place of bitter, triumphalist partisanship, a transformation of the system.

Second, scholarship and honest journalism: Go where truth ordains, even if it is not your preference. This is in place of the indoctrination and partisanship, which have turned large tracts of entertainment, journalism, and scholarship into lies.

In other words, people want teaching, journalism, and charity to be credible. But these are caught-up in the partisan culture war- which is in control of the left. The coinage of these matters is debased.

The Simpson’s Campaign for Obama
Posted: 03 Dec 2013 12:55 AM PST

The Simpsons

The Simpsons

The culture war is so extreme that nothing can escape, but also interesting is the predictability of plots. One thing is that absolutely minimal pretense can be wrapped around supposed balance. Because it is so extreme and these people are so brazen, balance does not matter anymore. For example, in my son's former 6th grade class in Maryland, teaching was conducted with Obama playing cards, by a math teacher who was a strong advocate for Obama's election. In other words, they have gone much further than you would ever expect.

For example, Lisa Simpson is depressed because she doesn’t have friends, but then Lisa meets another girl who shares similar intellectual interests. Lisa and this girl, Isabella, both decide to run for class president. There are some interesting features in this. Lisa is horrified to discover that Isabella is a Republican. While Lisa is able to make reasonable and normal points, Isabella is presented as a stereotype. The Republican committee consists of the following people:
  1. A scary corrupt, dishonest clown
  2. A crazy Texan who shoots off guns
  3. An Arnold Schwarzenegger look-alike
  4. A vampire
  5. The dishonest owner of a nuclear power plant (isn't this over the top, even for an animated comedy?)

In contrast, the Democrats are presented as follows: Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and Michael Dukakis. These characters are just teased. Bill Clinton is not criticized, even though he did some "bad things."  Dukakis is lightly jibbed, and Kerry is not dealt with at all. In contrast to the Republicans, a waste dispenser would look like an upright figure.

The Republicans give lots of money to Isabella, whereas the Democrats don't really help Lisa. But actually, a thing that many people miss is Isabella. First of all, there is no possible way that a self-identified Jew would be named Isabella. Since Queen Isabella exiled the Jews in in 1492, this would be quite unlikely. Second, no Argentinian would identify as Hispanic. People who identify as such are usually from Central American nations. Isabella is given lessons to be Hispanic so she won't be "racist," whereas any other republican would naturally be racist outright. This is very subtle. Note that the writers of the program show that "Hispanic" does not only mean Guatemalan or Mexican. At the end of the program, Lisa loses the election, but–this is an absolutely remarkable situation–she is told  that she won the exit poll 53% to 47%. Yet a classmate remarks to her, "Your ideas are more popular, but they just don't like you. Haha."

In other words, the implication is that Obamacare and economic management under Obama are supported, but sometimes there is a lack of belief in his judgment. This is of course the propaganda line of the Obama administration. It's so predictable.

Last night my wife suggested we watch a drama about a Danish Prime Minister. Somehow I knew exactly what the plot would be, and sure enough it turned out to be true. The leader of a Danish party was going to go up in coalition with another centrist politician, but then she saw a ridiculous stereotype about how refugees would be sent back to their home lands, and she changed her view. This means that if any country is not likely to allow in a large number of economic refugees with no devotion to the country, and the citizens have to pay for their living well, then this is a ridiculous racist issue. 

This explains why at a dinner in Copenhagen some years ago I was asked if I had seen a new book about the history of Denmark, which was in Danish. I had seen it, but obviously could not read it. The Danish military officer who was speaking at the dinner said, "You know that the book ends a certain year, but that's not just coincidence, because he doesn't think that Denmark will survive much longer because of this situation. Will the United States?"

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