The (timely) death of outrage

by Ted on October 13, 2003

Jesse has made a good point:

A month or two ago, there was a widely-shared understanding on much of the right that Bustamante was a bad choice for governor of California because he refused to repudiate his membership as an undergrad in the Latino student group MEChA. Few people argued that Bustamante himself was a racist, but it was widely agreed that MEChA was a dangerous, hateful group of extremists. MEChA was commonly described as a “hate group,” the Latino equivalent of the Klu Klux Klan. Glenn Reynolds famously called them a group of “fascist hatemongers.” Some accused them of wishing to seize the American Southwest for Mexico. Mechistas were often accused of hating white people, and occasionally accused of hating Jews. We spent a lot of time arguing about the translation of “Por La Raza todo. Fuera de La Raza nada” and the correct reading of El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán.

Bustamante has lost the election, but MEChA didn’t go anywhere. There are still 300 active chapters all over the United States. All across the country, active chapters of MEChA go about their business. In general, I don’t think they’re doing anything wrong, although my reading led me to believe that some chapters were overly touchy and PC. Quite a few people strenuously disagreed with me.

If I thought that there were 300 chapters of the KKK on college campuses agitating for a violent revolt in order to claim their own Aryan nation, I’d see this as a continuing issue even after an election was over. So… if people believed what they were saying, where did the concern about MEChA go?

What did she expect?

by Chris Bertram on October 13, 2003

There’s quite “an extraordinary column in today’s Telegraph”: in which the ghastly Barbara Amiel, who no doubt has no more access to the evidence than any other member of the public, declares the as yet untried footballer-rape case to be of dubious merit, and opines:

bq. In the past, any woman crying rape under such factual circumstances would have had to show feeble-mindedness to warrant society’s protection. Going voluntarily up to a stranger’s room for intercourse or its preliminaries, and expecting a man to behave as a light switch that can be turned off at will, may be technically her right, but it is both biologically and logically mad.

Those following the case will know that it is suggested that the woman was attacked by a number of persons other than the one she had gone upstairs with. I’d be interested to know if Amiel’s piece amounts to contempt of court.

Dude, where’s my brow?

by Ted on October 13, 2003

Did you know that Rita Mae Brown, who wrote Rubyfruit Jungle*, the frequently-assigned novel about growing up lesbian, also wrote the screenplay for the slasher movie The Slumber Party Massacre? (She also writes a popular series of mysteries.)

If I was a professor of cultural studies, my head would be spinning. Accurately measuring the brow altitude of American culture is a job for braver souls than I.

UPDATE: Just Rubyfruit Jungle, not The Rubyfruit Jungle. Thanks, Patrick.

Greatest jazz albums

by Chris Bertram on October 13, 2003

Norman Geras’s “greatest jazz albums”: poll is up. I managed to vote for just one in the top 15, Ellington’s Newport album. There’s rightly a lot of Coltrane in there, but, disappointingly, my own top pick, his “Live at the Village Vanguard”: didn’t make it.

Responsibility, crime and terrorism

by Chris Bertram on October 13, 2003

Those interminable debates about whether criminals are to blame for their crimes or whether we should look to their circumstances are now repackaged as a standoff between those who want to hold terrorists responsible for their atrocities and those who look to root causes. The right answer, of course, is “both”. But here’s a simple and plausible model, entirely _a priori_ , to help us to think about things.

Imagine a population who vary in their susceptibility to pressure. We can call the property in which they vary “virtue”. Some are so virtuous that no matter what the pressure, they never perform an evil act. Some are so vicious that even if the pressure is negative, they do vile things just for the hell of it. Most people are in between (since virtue is normally distributed). As pressure — caused by poverty, social dislocation, military occupation, whatever — rises, more and more of the population switch, given their underlying propensities, from virtuous to vicious actions.

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