By now you’ve probably heard that Jonathan Chait has written an article for New York magazine decrying modern liberalism for becoming little more than a series of Twitter-based convulsions of outrage. You may have heard that he has a point there. Or maybe you heard it was an argument against Political Correctness—a dragon from 1991 who has reared up wearing a crop top, ‘70s jeans and 14-hole Doc Marten’s, and is taking the pain of her infected belly-button piercing out on others in inappropriate ways—and the reign of terror this dread P.C. has engendered in liberal academia. Or maybe you heard that a previously moderately well-regarded author has gone to the #slatepitch side of the Force. Or, perhaps, that Jonathan Chait has a skin so thin that he cries when someone gets the butter knife out of the drawer anywhere within six blocks of his apartment, and is also so allergic to his own tears that he then needs to use his EpiPen and ARE YOU HAPPY NOW BLACK FEMINISTS1/1//! Unfortunately for Jonathan Chait, modern liberalism, the state of the publishing industry, feminism, concerns about racial equality, the extent to which previously marginalized voices can now pipe up and be heard in critical discourse, and all of us, it’s actually that last thing.

But what about his maybe having a point? The thing is, Chait has about 75% of perhaps two points, but the wheat/arsenic-laced chaff ratio is bad. Very bad. How so? The article is actually about how his feelings got hurt by people who say mean things on the internet—in the sense that this is the actual motive for writing it. ‘They claim to be too sensitive to take criticism or even hear discussion of sensitive topics, and that shuts down debate!’ whines sensitive man whose feelings have been hurt by criticism from the internet. ‘They are destroying our political project and they won’t even listen to my concern trolling crucial critique because I am…a white man!’ [Faints on couch.] How did New York Magazine tease this article? “Can a white, liberal man critique a culture of political correctness?” Spoiler alert: YES.
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The Corrupted

by Harry on January 28, 2015

The second series of The Corrupted has started. The first series, last year, was amazing—an immersive, 450 minute saga of criminality in the East End in the 1950’s: I think it’s the longest serious drama series Radio 4 has done for decades (I’m not counting soapy plays like the wonderful Brief Lives, or the episodic genre pieces like Baldi and the sublime Pilgrim). I wasn’t going to bother bringing it to your notice, because I didn’t realise that the first series was available, but, apparently, GF Newman posted it all to youtube soon after it was broadcast (and nobody else has noticed judging by the numbers). Series 2 covers the 1960’s. It is riveting. First series here; second here.

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On International Holocaust Remembrance Day

by Corey Robin on January 28, 2015

I highly recommend that everyone read Eszter’s moving, almost unbearable post, in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, about her father’s experience as a three-year-old in the camps. The day, which marks the liberation of Auschwitz, makes me think of that scene in Shoah where Lanzmann is moving through a Polish village, as his guide, a local, points out the different homes where Jewish families once lived. If memory serves (it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it), the guide recites the names of the families and then, with some prodding from Lanzmann, gives the names of the Polish families who live there now. Or maybe it’s the reverse: the guide recites the names of the Polish families, and Lanzmann prods him about the Jews who used to live there. Regardless, you get this terrible feeling of dread as you think about the generations of Jews who once lived in these homes, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not, but often uneasily. You think about their gentile neighbors who for centuries longed to see them gone. And then they were.

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Opinions May Vary

by Corey Robin on January 27, 2015

On Hugo Chavez…

John Kerry: “Throughout his time in office, President Chavez has repeatedly undermined democratic institutions by using extra-legal means, including politically motivated incarcerations, to consolidate power.”

New York Times: “A Polarizing Figure Who Led a Movement” “strutting like the strongman in a caudillo novel”

Human Rights Watch: “Venezuela: Hugo Chávez’s Authoritarian Legacy”


On King Abdullah…
John Kerry: “King Abdullah was a man of wisdom & vision.”

New York Times: “Nudged Saudi Arabia Forward” “earned a reputation as a cautious reformer” “a force of moderation”

Human Rights Watch: “Saudi Arabia: King’s Reform Agenda Unfulfilled”

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Crying Babies

by Eszter Hargittai on January 27, 2015

    I seem to remember more events from our deportation in 1944-45 than from many of the subsequent years. But these memories are like still pictures to me rather than a continuous movie. It is probable that some things that I seem to remember are merely a reflection of what others have told me. I vaguely remember that between our triple-decker beds at the camp there was a little space that mother converted into a “home” consisting of a small stand with some belongings. There was a small container, which I now imagine to be of the size of a very small glass. Once my mother got hold of some butter, which filled this container. She asked us to decide whether to eat it all at once or make it last for a while. I was for saving it, and this made quite a story in our camp, the lager, because everybody knew that I was hungry all the time.

    In the camp, I cried day and night, especially night, and my crying kept everybody awake. This I do not remember, but I had to listen to comments about this for many years by survivors from the lager. If they recognized me, they would tell me immediately about their predicaments due to my crying. Mother must have gone through additional suffering because of my crying. She must have felt sorry for me and for her fellow inmates, too. When I hear a child crying in a bus, on board an airplane during a long flight, or similar situations, I have great understanding for the child and its mother.

Excerpted from my father István Hargittai’s book Our Lives: Encounters of a Scientist posted here in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. My father was three years old when he was in the camp described above.

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A one-horse troika

by John Quiggin on January 27, 2015

I’m a lot further from the action than DD, but I’m still surprised his confidence in the judgement and resolve of the Eurocracy in the coming confrontation with Syriza. Whatever you think about Greece, the failure of austerity in the Eurozone generally is patently obvious. It has already been admitted by the IMF (at least in its research, if not by its political leadership) and just last week by the ECB, with the shift to massive quantitative easing and the abandonment of the (supposedly unbreachable) ban on financing government deficits. That leaves the European Commission as the only horse still pulling the troika hard in the direction of austerity.

But the European Commission is almost as discredited as austerity. Apart from the appalling Olli Rehn, there’s the problem of Jean-Claude Juncker, who faced unprecedented resistance before getting elected, only to be exposed as complicit in tax avoidance/evasion on a scale that makes the dodges of Greek doctors look trivial. I just can’t see the IMF and ECB risking utter disaster in support of a policy they no longer believe in, at the behest of a shambles like the Commission.

That leaves the possibility that the German government will exert its (assumed) veto power more directly [I don’t understand the nature of this power, and would be happy to be enlightened]. My guess is that Merkel won’t be willing to take the risk of lumbering Germany with the responsibility of destroying Europe (again).

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Greek games and scenarios

by Daniel on January 25, 2015

Early news reports seem to be pretty clear that Syriza has won the Greek elections, so I thought CT readers might be interested in the following note, which I sent to my professionals’ mailing list a few weeks ago. Since I wrote it, there has been a lot of rather contradictory comment on what the party’s negotiation strategy might actually be, but nevertheless, it certainly seems that the “ultimatum” approach to debt reduction is very much on the table, and in any case, a dogmatic refusal to continue with past agreements on structural measures would end up having the same effect.

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Sunday photoblogging: bike

by Chris Bertram on January 25, 2015

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My Fair Lady: A Series of Text Messages

by Belle Waring on January 25, 2015

Prof. Henry Higgins: I could totlly teach you to talk good lol.
Eliza Doolittle: no way! I talk too bad!
HH: you would even be hot then haha.
ED: but I have a smudge on my face.
HH: inorite?
ED: it’s small but it like hides my whole face. it is a magic smudge.
HH: if you didn’t have a magic smudge you could be hot. jk you will prolly never get that smudge off. you will never be hotlol.
ED: please teach me to talk good even though I suck and stuff plz!
HH: I guess, god whatever

ED: some dudes think I’m hot!
HH: as if. they are just saying whatever to get into your pants. they can tell u still talk stupid.
ED: OMG u r so mean I am seriously crying now for real!
HH: you are way too emoshe. that’s why I can’t even deal with chicks sometimes. this is all about a bet I made with my bro. a brotimes bet. brotimes.
ED: I hate you! I am running away!

HH: you ran away to my mom’s house because you love me.
ED: no one ever said I was hot before until you said I looked barely tolerable. will u PLEASE GO OUT WITH ME PLEADE!
HH: OK I am like 70 u know.
ED: and I am like 25 and no one ever said that they had gotten used to seeing my face among other objects they saw during the day, like cabs and umbrellas! u r the 1! you saw thru the magic smudge! IT WAS MAGIC!
HH: yeah I’m pretty amazing. OK fine.
ED: I love u so much!
HH: I love me too.

finis

UPDATE: If I had been making fun of Shaw it would have said “Pygmalion: a Series of Text Messages,” wouldn’t it? What am I likeliest to have seen recently? The original London production with Julie Andrews? Possibly, just conceivably, the Audrey Hepburn/Rex Harrison movie? Let your imaginations run wild. Secondly, it has been brought to my attention that Mallory Ortberg thought of this first, which is too bad insofar as she is way funnier than me, but good insofar as she is both way funnier than me and a more dedicated, prolific writer, and I get to read the things she writes on the internet. So, it’s win-win! The only thing for me to do is keep training harder, like that montage in Rocky IV when Rocky is training in Siberia while Ivan Drago is being put through his paces in a futuristic Soviet lab, so it turns out Rocky is training in a more authentically Russian way than Drago, because he is in the snow carrying wood and buckets. IRONIC! The music for this is awesome, although it annoys John when it comes up on shuffle in iTunes. “What the f%*k? Oh this is one of your montages isn’t it. You know, the Thundercats theme song came on while I was with Violet at drum lessons yesterday.” Forget the haters!

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The Peripheral

by Henry on January 22, 2015

Attention conservation notice: A blogpost on the William Gibson book of the same name, with copious spoilers. At the very best, it presents a crudely simplified reading of one skein of the book, without any of the ambiguity and negative capability stuff that makes the novel fun. At worst, it’s both boring and completely wrong.

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Daumier Does Socrates, Robo Hates Dr. D.

by John Holbo on January 22, 2015

I’m glad to have spread the gorey news regarding Daumier. Some commenters were evidently unfamiliar. Here’s a nice Flickr set if you just want to browse. But, for CT’s especially philosophically-minded and discerning readership, one from Daumier’s “Histoire Ancienne” series. (It also belongs in my collection of philosophers looking silly. This one is also good.)

I present: Socrates doing a soft cancan, to Aspasia’s discomfort. [click to continue…]

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My department is working on a project for the department to try to get more systematic information about why undergrads become philosophy majors (and why students who might, don’t). As one component of that project, we’re planning to conduct two online surveys—one of current philosophy majors and another of students who recently took introductory-level philosophy classes. Obviously we’re particularly interested in why women and members of certain racial minorities become majors at lower rates than men and members of other racial groups. Thing is—being a philosophy department we are not over-endowed with expertise on how to frame or conduct surveys. We are going to enlist the help of experts but my colleague who is heading up the effort asked my department for initial suggestions of survey questions, and I thought, well, why not crowd-source it? Its entirely possible that other departments have already done this successfully, and it is quite likely that some of our readers will have useful suggestions of questions. So—suggest ahead.

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Daumier Does Edward Gorey

by John Holbo on January 20, 2015

While I’m on the subject of Honoré Daumier, let me just show a couple other items from the aforementioned whomping great volume. A pair of lithographs from the Caricatural Salon of 1840 (which I saved myself the trouble of scanning by finding here. Kind of interesting comparisons with some comics frames.)

Anyway, the first is “The Ascension of Christ. After the Original Painting By Brrdhkmann”:

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Travel photo blogging: MLK Memorial in DC

by Eszter Hargittai on January 19, 2015

MLK Memorial, DCIn honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the US, I am posting some photos I took at the MLK Memorial in DC when I visited there last Fall. There is no shortage of critical commentary about the memorial from when it was dedicated a few years ago. I wasn’t aware of these when I visited, which is probably a good thing as it would have tainted my visit, not necessarily justifiably as far as I’m concerned. (If you feel you must add your critical thoughts in the comments, I just ask that you try to be original.)

MLK Memorial, DCI admit that it wasn’t a particularly targeted visit on my part. I was in town for a conference and had an afternoon to roam the city. I had been walking for hours (winding my way back from the Thomas Sweet in Georgetown to the Mall) and found myself walking on Independence Ave SW when I spotted signs to the MLK Memorial. Once I saw the signs, I knew I wanted to see it.

I was lucky in the timing of my visit. It was early evening on a weekday, 9/11 to be precise. There was almost no one else around. This made a difference as I found the place perfect for contemplation. I entered from the northwest, which worked well as I appreciated walking through the rocks not knowing exactly what to expect.

MLK Memorial, DCAfter looking at MLK’s figure and taking in the scene of the Jefferson Memorial that is in the statue’s line of sight, I walked from quote to quote and reflected on each, especially given the Ferguson events still fresh in memory. I was able to do all of this almost in solitude. The early evening light added to the mood.

If you can, I recommend visiting early evening or perhaps early morning on a weekday when you may have the place mostly to yourself. Be sure to give yourself time, it wouldn’t have been the same had I felt rushed.

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Manspreading In 19th Century Paris

by John Holbo on January 19, 2015

So Manspreading is a thing, hence a controversy. I don’t have a lot to add to this Jezebel post on the subject. Except I do! I did some important historical research by remembering that Honoré Daumier got there first with “The Omnibus”.

pl1_371227_fnt_tr_ii [click to continue…]

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