A recent Munk Debates in Toronto on November 30 examined the topic of whether or not the mainstream news media is trustworthy (the debate is titled “Be it resolved, don’t trust mainstream media”). Douglas Murray and Matt Taibbi took the position that the mainstream media is not to be trusted while Malcolm Gladwell and Michelle Goldberg took the opposing position. You can read a transcript of the debate here. As debates usually go, nothing was really resolved, though an overwhelming majority of the audience seemed to favor the Murray-Taibbi position after the debate. As such, the question remains: should people trust the mainstream news media?
Here in the United States, the so-called “Red Wave” that was supposed to have crashed over our legislature and state offices on November 8, 2022 failed to transpire. Prior to the midterm election, grim warnings of rising fascism abounded. “Democracy itself”, we were repeatedly admonished, was going to be strangled by rightwing fanatics before it could die its natural death. Pair this with the dour tidings of Elon Musk purchasing Twitter and Kanye West spouting more of his increasingly deranged brand of asinine attention seeking, and the rhetoric from the left almost painted a picture of the U.S. teetering on the brink of madness, like Germany of 1933.
On the other side of the ledger, prognostications warning of the gathering whirlwind of Woke-ism and Marxism grew ever more vociferous. Schools and universities, we are warned, have been mutated and twisted into Marxist reeducation camps where children are corrupted and groomed by depraved deviants and insidious ideologues, all while leftwing censorious indignation furiously proliferates in every corner of the internet. The “Red Wave” was supposed to be a last-ditch bulwark against the rising red tide of Neo-Marxist totalitarianism. If these dire omens were to be believed, then one might be convinced that the U.S. is in the same precarious position as China in 1966.
But which of these grim narratives is true?
In the United States, we have our midterm elections coming up on November 8, 2022. Both “sides” of the election (the conservative and right-leaning Republicans and the progressive and left-leaning Democrats) have an alarming number of people frothing at the mouth with vitriol toward their opposing side. The other side, both argue, are an existential threat to democracy. They’re not just wrong or misguided, but nefarious and cunning. They want to harm [insert group here, e.g., children or minorities]. This is the kind of political divisiveness that heralds an inevitable plunge into authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Here is the problem, though: both sides are not exactly wrong about their opponents.
I’ve said before that I don’t usually like to talk about the news-of-the-day stuff here. I like to make posts that, even if someone stumbles upon it a few years from now, they’ll still find it relevant, or at least interesting. Here I’m going to talk about the recent controversy about Sam Harris and his alleged Trump Derangement Syndrome, or TDS. The reason is that, like it or not, Donald Trump’s ascendancy to leadership (even messianic) status among conservatives, Republicans, and right-wingers is going to have a long-reaching effect within the United States. And, since the U.S. has such a large place on the world stage, this is also something that will have far-reaching effects throughout the rest of the world as well.
When considering the religious aspect of the fanatical MAGA mob and their QAnon conspiracies, I can’t help but be reminded by Kierkegaard‘s leap of faith. Just as Abraham was told to do something heinous in the name of God, and despite the fact that nobody would understand why Abraham had done it, he must still do it.
During these declining days of the U.S. Empire, everything has become politicized. People demand political participation, if not full on activism (for their preferred positions, of course), from celebrities, corporations, and family members alike. The politicization of everything is, of course, a prelude to totalitarianism: your every action has political implications, and therefore you must always be virtue signaling, demonstrating your loyalty to the cause. My own deep-seated cynicism about politics has been a blessing and a curse. And it’s also why I voted third party.
COVID-19 is yesterdays news. The number 200,000 is too large, it becomes abstract: those aren’t people, they’re just a number – a statistic rather than a tragedy. Now we can enjoy the bread and circuses of (national) politics while the tent collapses around us: the election is less than 6 weeks away and a liberal judge inconveniently died. Amidst the politically-motivated hagiography being heaped onto the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Trump has put forth his own candidate: Amy Coney Barrett. For many, this is beyond the pale.
Ludwig Wittgenstein famously talked about language as an interconnected assemblage of language games that make up a world-picture. A world-picture are all of the assumptions, norms, and grounds that a community holds as certain, and from there certain propositions in the language games the community employs will be either true or false. While I somewhat disagree with Wittgenstein’s conclusion that the truth criteria of any proposition is its proper usage within a language game, rather than the proposition’s correspondence with reality, I think his analysis gives a good framework for examining the epistemic disunity in the culture of the west.
The news these days often cover issues that, for some reason or another, leave people either angry and hateful toward one another, or furrowing their brows in a vain attempt to understand the situation. Here I will give some simple answers to these thorny issues.
Imagine a terrorist group infiltrated your country. For my hypothetical, I am going to use the U.S. since that is where I live, but this thought experiment could apply anywhere. Imagine it is known by everyone – you, your friends and family, your government – that this terrorist group exists, but nobody knows who is in it. This terrorist group is very secretive and good at keeping theirs and everyone else’s identities a secret.
If you have not yet heard of “the” Coronavirus you must not be paying attention. However, knowing about it does not necessarily mean you are informed about it. There seems to be a lot of misinformation regarding this disease. Perhaps here I can make things a little more clear.
I’m not a news site, so hopefully most people reading this aren’t just now learning that U.S. president Donald Trump ordered U.S. troops pulled back from the northern border between Syria and Turkey. This was done at the behest of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Here I would like to set a few things straight and give my opinion on the whole situation.
I consider myself a classical liberal, which in the U.S. is more strongly aligned with libertarians than with Liberals. I voted for the Libertarian candidate in the last two elections, after voting for Obama in 2008 and John Kerry in 2004 (those elections were before my conversion to being more libertarian leaning). That being said, I am prepared to vote Democratic again in this election as long as Tulsi Gabbard is the Democratic candidate. Here is why.
I don’t have a real hot take on the issue of the Trump impeachment, but I thought it important to lay down some of my thoughts. My opinions follow directly from my political cynicism: 1) it’s more political theater than a sincere desire to save the republic, 2) it’s a bad idea, and 3) it’s not going to work.
Any U.S. readers will be aware of this, but for those outside the U.S. who aren’t, there were two independent mass shooting incidents in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend. As per usual, both immediately became political. Soon after political blame games, the other usual suspects are trotted out – music and video games.
I just read this piece by conservative Christian Rod Dreher commenting on this story by Anthony Borrelli and Katie Sullivan Borrelli in the Ithaca Journal newspaper. Dreher says that this is tantamount to the Ithaca Journal getting permission from a commissar, which makes the story propaganda for the LGBTQ agenda. Is Dreher right about this?
An article in The American Conservative by Daniel R. Depetris contrasts Mitt Romney’s approach to foreign policy (as a synecdoche for the Republic Establishment) to that of Donald Trump. The former is a sort of idealism, where America takes point in the “U.S.-led liberal international order.” The latter sees international relations as a business transaction, where alliances are treated as a quid pro quo relationship. Is there a foreign policy realism that can be used as a middle ground?
After two years of investigation and constant media coverage, the Mueller Report is finally finished. While anyone outside the Justice Department has yet to read the full report, Attorney General William Barr has released a summary. The so-called Russiagate story is not yet over, however, as there are now calls for the entire Mueller Report to be made public. Exactly what the Russiagate story is and how it started is expertly told by Matt Taibbi in his “It’s official: Russiagate is this generation’s WMD” piece. What I’m more interested in is how this whole story is indicative of human nature.