Wednesday, December 07, 2022


The Washington Post's Matt Bai has noticed that many of us are horrified by Kanye West's anti-Semitism. Bai think the problem is ... us.
There was a time not so long ago when if you wanted to hear the world’s dumbest sentiments on race or ethnicity, you had to at least put on a coat and go down to the neighborhood bar.

What we did not do back then, by the way, was storm into those bars, haul out the loudest blowhards and publicly shame them at the top of every homepage and cable show in America.

That’s pretty much where we are now, when displays of basic idiocy dominate the headlines, mostly because denouncing them makes the rest of us feel more virtuous, or maybe because they seem to validate our sense that the culture is unraveling.

Exhibit A involves Ye, who used to be a big-time rapper named Kanye West but is now the society’s best-known Hitler admirer.
Okay, stop right there. No virtue-signaling liberal dragged poor Kanye West out of obscurity and forced America to pay attention to him even though he was barely known to the public. Kanye West is one of the most popular musical performers of the past twenty years, with nine platinum albums and 73 platinum songs. Until recently, he was a billionaire, with lucrative businesses and endorsement deals. And right-wing influencers, including the House Judiciary Committee and the most popular host on cable news, have tried to make him the face of a new, multi-racial Republican Party. In his status as a public figure, he couldn't be less like a random non-famous guy spouting bigotry at a bar.

Bai writes:
Ye (do I really have to call him that?) is pretty clearly struggling with mental illness, as his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, has been telling us for years.
Everyone knows West has bipolar disorder. He mentioned it on an album cover, for crissake. Do your homework, Matt. Moreover, millions of people have the same disorder or other mental illnesses and aren't raving bigots.
Is the moral thing here really to give Ye more of a platform to debase himself than he already has? Just because Donald Trump takes Ye seriously doesn’t mean the rest of us have to.
Do we book guests on the Alex Jones podcast? Did we give West his 32 million Twitter followers back (temporarily)? The recent platforming of West came from people who weren't liberals. And if liberals' decision to talk about West offends Bai, is he saying that we should allow this extremely famous and highly influential person to spout the vilest bigotry with no pushback? Apparently that's exactly what Bai wants us to do.

Bai is also peeved because a story from Britain was briefly in the news here:
Then we have the international flare-up over the British Baroness Susan Hussey ... who turns out to be the all-too-real kind of White person who thinks that non-White people must be from somewhere else....

Lady Hussey is 83, born in the waning days of the British Empire. Show of hands: How many of you have grandparents who would say something racially insensitive without being cognizant of why?
My grandmother said a few insensitive things during her life. But she didn't have a highly sensitive position working for the British royal family, one that requires decorum and diplomacy, in a country where the press is unrestrained and eager to pounce on any royal shortcoming. Being careful not to say the wrong thing was Lady Hussey's job, or at least part of it. I can't say the same about my grandmother.

Oh, and Bai thinks we're all way too upset about rampant hatemongering on Twitter.
As for the growing alarm over Twitter, let’s just grasp for a modicum of context. According to the Times, slurs against Black Americans have lately risen from 1,282 a day to more like 3,876. Insults of gay men are up to a daily average of almost 4,000.

Thousands of slurs are thousands too many, but consider that Twitter has something like 41 million daily active users in the United States alone. We’re not talking about a remotely significant percentage of tweets....
Yes, think of all the Black and LGBT people who weren't called "n****r" or "groomer"!
Bigotry ought to be condemned even if it’s not especially pervasive — we should all be able to agree on that.
We have no problem agreeing on that. It's you who seem to have a problem with it.
But the total lack of perspective in the conversation about hate speech — this impression that somehow these controversies are the most important things happening in the universe right now — can lead us down a couple of perilous paths.
Anyone who thinks this is troubling at all is blowing it up into the top story in the world, Bai says, offering no evidence that this is true.
First, it lends credence and momentum to those on the left who would jettison the concept of free speech entirely. There’s a popular — and very misguided — argument among leftists, particularly younger ones, that free expression is a weapon wielded by the capitalist and colonialist elite, and that no one should enjoy the right to make others uncomfortable because of their race or identity. They would turn the entire country into a college campus.
Yeah, you knew Bai would start punching hippies sooner or later.
Real liberals know that the freedom of speech includes the right to be stupid, hurtful and wrong. In fact, that’s generally when it matters most. We’re a stronger and more admired country not when we protect the ideas everybody loves, but when we tolerate the ones that make us sick.
The real intolerance is criticizing people who say "n*****r" or "groomer."
Second, all this mindless amplification of run-of-the-mill bigotry adds to the perception that history is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to inclusivity and tolerance. That’s just not true.

... Ugly strains of hatred have become louder and more visible since the onset of the Trump era, but that doesn’t mean we’re going backward. In fact, by any obvious measure of progress, we are a vastly more enlightened society than we were 50 years ago, or even 25 years ago.
How does that prove we're not going backward? Do we have to give up all the ground we've gained in a half century before we're allowed to say, "Oops, I think we have a bigotry problem"? There were double-digit increases in hate crimes in major cities in 2020 and 2021, and they're still going up in 2022. Hate group activity surged in the Trump years. The right-wing establishment has apparently declared open season on trans people. But if you express concern about any of this, you're the problem, according to Bai.
If you want to worry about the state of civil society, then worry about Trump’s call this week to suspend the Constitution so he can be enshrined in power — and the deafening Republican silence that followed it. Or worry about the case that just reached the Supreme Court, in which a Colorado website designer says she shouldn’t have to make wedding pages for gay couples.
It seems odd that Bai is disimissive of personal bigotry yet worried about that Supreme Court case. But I think I understand his worldview. He's spent so much time hanging out with the big names in politics that he doesn't believe anything of importance is done by people without political power, even extremely wealthy influencers like Kanye West and Elon Musk.

But guys who let our society's atmosphere of hate collect in their craniums until they decide to shoot up synagogues or gay bars don't run their plans through congressional committees. Matt Bai doesn't care, though. If it doesn't happen in his world, it doesn't matter, and you're an idiot for being concerned.

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