Category Archives: Humanity

Not the Onion: UN Vote Allows Saudi Arabia on Women’s Council

Alex Mihailovic speaks with Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK and author of Kingdom of the Unjust, about the ultraconservative Kingdom of Saudi Arabia being elected to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. (RT America)

As U.S. Prepares Arrest Warrant for Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald Says Prosecuting WikiLeaks Threatens Press Freedom

Amy Goodman speaks with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald who responds to reports that the Trump administration has prepared an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (Democracy Now!)

Jehovah’s Witnesses Had Foes Before Putin

Leonid Bershidsky writes for Bloomberg:

When the Russian Supreme Court banned Jehovah’s Witnesses and ordered the confiscation of the denomination’s property on Thursday, it wasn’t the first time. The faithful were outlaws in the Soviet Union, too, until that country’s final year. The stubborn group will fight on — but the court has delivered another chilling reminder that President Vladimir Putin’s Russia is even less free than the USSR was.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a U.S.-based global religious organization, and they often are targeted by authoritarian and belligerent governments because members don’t believe in government authority. They don’t vote, serve in the military, salute flags or hail leaders. When the Nazis came to power in Germany, the Witnesses wouldn’t use the Nazi salute because, according to their beliefs, it amounted to idolatry. Hitler responded by sending more than 10,000 “Bible Students,” as they called themselves then, to prisons and concentration camps, where their pacifism particularly inspired torturers.

In the Soviet Union directly after World War II, Witnesses were mostly concentrated in western Ukraine and Transcarpathia, and they had the bad luck to trade Nazi persecution for the equally harsh Stalinist kind. In two secret operations in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Witnesses were removed to Siberian labor camps. There were only about 10,000 of them then. But adherents of the denomination didn’t stop practicing and preaching in exile and in the camps, and when, after Stalin’s death, the state stopped systematically imprisoning them and switched to a harassment tactic, the flock started growing.

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The Unprecedented Danger of Prosecuting Julian Assange

Kate Knibbs writes for The Ringer:

[…] WikiLeaks has published documents without redacting personal information of ordinary people. As an organization, it has frequently behaved irresponsibly and, some have argued, despicably. It has also exposed corruption and criminality by state powers. The quality, morality, necessity, and overall prudence of its editorial choices are beside the point. What matters is that it appears that the Trump administration has decided that it is going to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information.

There were warning signs that this was coming. CIA Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” during a speech last week, and bizarrely insisted that Assange does not have First Amendment protection as a non-U.S. citizen. (That is not how the First Amendment works; if Assange were to be prosecuted on U.S. soil, he would enjoy the same Constitutional protections as a citizen. To insist otherwise is a radical reinterpretation deeply at odds with how the Bill of Rights has been applied.) Attorney General Jeff Sessionscalled Assange’s arrest a “priority” at a press conference Thursday. However, seeking his arrest would demonstrate a remarkable about-face from President Trump, as he repeatedly and effusively praised WikiLeaks during his campaign. “WikiLeaks! I love WikiLeaks!” he told a crowd at an October rally.

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First Roger Ailes, Now Bill O’Reilly: Sexual Harassment Scandal Ousts Top Men at Fox News

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speak with civil rights attorney Lisa Bloom who represents three women who have accused Bill O’Reilly of unwanted sexual advances. (Democracy Now!)

 

Why More Highly Educated People Are Less Into Conspiracy Theories

Christian Jarrett writes for The BPS Digest:

Moon Landing Conspiracy Concept[…] Van Prooijen said the results suggest that “the relationship between education and belief in conspiracy theories cannot be reduced to a single psychological mechanism but is the product of the complex interplay of multiple psychological processes.”

The nature of his study means we can’t infer that education or the related factors he measured actually cause less belief in conspiracies. But it makes theoretical sense that they might be involved: for example, more education usually increases people’s sense of control over their lives (though there are exceptions, for instance among people from marginalized groups), while it is feelings of powerlessness that is one of the things that often attracts people to conspiracy theories.

Importantly, Van Prooijen said his findings help make sense of why education can contribute to “a less paranoid society” even when conspiracy theories are not explicitly challenged. “By teaching children analytic thinking skills along with the insight that societal problems often have no simple solutions, by stimulating a sense of control, and by promoting a sense that one is a valued member of society, education is likely to install the mental tools that are needed to approach far-fetched conspiracy theories with a healthy dose of skepticism.”

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James Baldwin on Freedom and How We Imprison Ourselves

Maria Popova writes for Brain Pickings:

jamesbaldwin“Everything can be taken from a man,” Viktor Frankl wrote in his timeless treatise on the human search for meaning, “but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” And yet, as Adrienne Rich observed in her sublime meditation on writing, capitalism, and freedom, “in the vocabulary kidnapped from liberatory politics, no word has been so pimped as freedom.” How, then, are we to choose our own way amid a capitalist society that continually commodifies our liberty?

The peculiar manner in which personal and political freedom magnetize each other is what James Baldwin (August 2, 1924–December 1, 1987) explores in a piece titled “Notes for a Hypothetical Novel,” originally delivered as an address at the 1960 Esquire symposium on the writer’s role in society and later included in his altogether spectacular essay collection Nobody Knows My Name.

Baldwin writes:

Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be. One hasn’t got to have an enormous military machine in order to be un-free when it’s simpler to be asleep, when it’s simpler to be apathetic, when it’s simpler, in fact, not to want to be free, to think that something else is more important.

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Rebecca Solnit on Breaking Silence as Our Mightiest Weapon Against Oppression

Maria Popova writes for Brain Pickings:

Rebecca Solnit (Photograph: Sallie Dean Shatz)“To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men,” the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote in her 1914 anthem against silence — an incantation which fomented biologist and writer Rachel Carson’s courage to speak inconvenient truth to power as she catalyzed the environmental movement. “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you,” Audre Lorde admonished on the cusp of another cultural revolution in her influential 1984 treatise on transforming silence into redemptive action. “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wrote in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech shortly after Lorde’s landmark essay was published.

No silence is larger, both in age and in scope, nor more demanding of breaking, than the silencing of women’s voices — a millennia-old assault on the integrity of more than half of humankind.

Let me make one thing clear here: We — all of us, of any gender — may have different answers to the questions feminism raises. But if we refuse to engage with the questions themselves, we are culpable not only of cowardice but of complicity in humanity’s oldest cultural crime.

How to dismantle that complicity and transmute it into courage is what Rebecca Solnit explores in an extraordinary essay titled “Silence Is Broken,” found in The Mother of All Questions — a sweeping collection of essays Solnit describes as “a tour through carnage, a celebration of liberation and solidarity, insight and empathy, and an investigation of the terms and tools with which we might explore all these things.”

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Lipstick Fascism: Lana Lokteff and the Women of the Alt-Right

Samantha Miller writes for Jacobin:

When we imagine the alt-right insurgency, we likely envision an army of Richard Spencers: angry white men with fashy haircuts marching under the banner of Pepethe Frog. But this image leaves out a sizable and increasingly vocal segment of extremist right politics: women.

Like their male counterparts, these white-nationalist and neofascist women reject what they call the “domination of cultural Marxism,” portraying leftists as the children of Karl Marx and Lena Dunham, trying to turn the United States into an anti-white cesspool run by Jewish interests that promote race-mixing, feminism, and hedonism.

These alt-right women put a feminine spin on the movement’s patriarchal and xenophobic rhetoric by emphasizing traditional gender roles and old-fashioned ideals of beauty. They promote the mid-century nuclear family, dreaming of emulating Obergruppenführer John Smith’s all-white, American Nazi family on the science-fiction show The Man in the High Castle.

In this, the alt-right seeks to naturalize what is not only oppressive but also conventional, reminding us that, as shocking as its recent explosion onto the political landscape has been, their ideology is largely recycled.

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Inside the Dangerous Convergence of Men’s-Rights Activists and the Extreme Alt-Right

David Futrelle reports for New York Magazine:

ImageJames Jackson had a plan. Traveling by Bolt Bus from his home in Baltimore to New York City, the 28-year-old Jackson hoped to strike a blow for the beleaguered white race by carrying out a bloody massacre of black men in Times Square, using a two-foot sword he’d brought with him for the occasion.

He didn’t get that far, turning himself in to NYC police after stalking, stabbing, and killing 66-year-old can collector Timothy Caughman in midtown in a “trial run” for the planned massacre. In a jailhouse interview, he told the New York Daily News that the murder had been a mistake. He had intended to kill a “young thug” or “a successful older black man” out with a blonde, an act he somehow thought would scare “white girls” away from black men.

It’s not hard to see where Jackson picked up at least some of his noxious views. He was, he told the Daily News, a regular reader of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer; on YouTube he subscribes to the channels of a vast assortment of alt-rightists and fellow travelers, from Hitler-worshiping revisionist “historians” who call themselves things like Esoteric Truth and the Impartial Truth to conspiracy-addled right-wingers like Alex Jones and the resolutely anti-feminist, anti-Muslim YouTube “philosopher” Stefan Molyneux.

But what is equally disturbing is that Jackson also subscribes to a vast collection of channels promoting the “Men Going Their Own Way” movement, a more radical and openly hateful version of men’s-rights activism, sans even the pretense of activism. MRAs may do precious little actual activism in the real world, but they do have a range of issues that they discuss on a regular basis, some of them legitimate issues they have seized upon largely for propaganda purposes (like male suicide and workplace safety), others generated from their own paranoid fantasies (the supposed epidemic of false rape accusations that leaves every man at risk of being jailed based on nothing more than a woman’s word).

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The Odds Against Antiwar Warriors

Andrew J. Bacevich reviews War Against War: The American Fight for Peace 1914–1918 by Michael Kazin for The American Conservative:

Image result for War Against War: The American Fight for Peace 1914–1918slog, but not without rewards: that’s what best describes this account of Americans who opposed U.S. participation in the European War of 1914–1918. While Michael Kazin, a historian of progressive bent who teaches at Georgetown University, tells an important story, his book suffers from a want of zip. The narrative meanders. The prose lacks sparkle. Still, for the patient reader, War Against War offers much to reflect upon.

Kazin’s subject is what he calls “the largest, most diverse, and most sophisticated peace coalition” to that point in all U.S. history. Not until the Vietnam War a half-century later would there be an antiwar movement “as large, as influential, and as tactically adroit.”

Perhaps so, but the American peace coalition that flourished a century ago failed abysmally. It succeeded neither in keeping the country out of the war nor in insulating the home front from war’s corrosive effects once the U.S. eventually intervened.

In what was not even remotely a contest of equals, the forces favoring war proved overwhelming. An approach to “neutrality” that mortgaged American prosperity to Anglo-French victory fostered decidedly unneutral attitudes on Wall Street and in Washington. Ultimately, however, arguments for staying out of war fell prey to vast ideological pretensions. As the stalemate on the Western Front dragged on, more and more Americans succumbed to the conviction that Providence was summoning the United States to save Civilization itself. Foremost among those Americans was President Woodrow Wilson.

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The Academic Home of Trumpism

Jon Baskin writes for The Chronicle for Higher Education:

arrived on the Claremont campus in search of the Straussians, but for the first hour all I could find were feminists.

It was just before noon, and I was at the Motley, a student-run coffee shop and study space devoted, said a sign above the entrance, to “diverse feminist critiques.” One wall had been turned into a giant blackboard, on which students scribbled math equations. The others were decorated with posters of feminist icons, slogans promoting intersectionality, and advertisements for a forthcoming “Funk the Patriarchy” party. Another flier announced “We’re Launching Economic Warfare!” next to a drawing of the president’s face peeking out from behind a circular “No Trump” sign.

Did the Motley regulars know that, less than 400 yards away, the academic vanguard of the Trump administration had been provided with office space and tenure?

Charles R. Kesler, whose class on The Federalist Papers I would be attending that afternoon, is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, and presiding chieftain of an obscure (until recently) tribe of political philosophers known as the “West Coast Straussians” — named for the émigré philosopher Leo Strauss. Kesler is also the editor of The Claremont Review of Books, the conservative magazine that The New York Times says is “being hailed as the bible of highbrow Trumpism.” “Like Richard Nixon in ’68,” Kesler wrote in May 2016, in one of his many prescient columns, “Trump felt that this election might test whether the center could hold, whether a silent majority could be mobilized on behalf of the country itself. The issue was not so much a showdown over liberal or conservative policies, but the simpler, more elementary question of whether a majority still wanted America to be great again.”

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The Dance of Death

Chris Hedges writes for Truthdig:

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminant and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus. The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population. The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.

The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war. President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.

The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”

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The New Authoritarians: Today’s Dictators Speak for the Complainer, Not the Idealist

Holly Case, associate professor of history at Brown University and the author of Between States, writes for Aeon:

Image result for The new authoritariansWe might take the demonstrative demise of strongmen such as Nicolae Ceaușescu in Romania, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and – more recently and unobtrusively – Fidel Castro in Cuba to indicate that the day of the dictator has largely passed. Alas, authoritarianism is staging a comeback. Yet it is clear to poets and political scientists alike that the new authoritarians – Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan in Turkey, Viktor Orbán in Hungary – are not like the old ones. In his recent poem ‘Some Advice for the New Government’, the poet Adam Zagajewski gave Poland’s newly elected cabinet some mock advice on how to be a new authoritarian:

All professors of constitutional law should be interned for life.
Poets can be left alone. No one reads them anyway.
You’ll need isolation camps, but gentle ones that won’t annoy the United Nations.
Most journalists should be sent to Madagascar.

These new strongmen seem milder, less openly brutal than the likes of Stalin or Hitler. In the words of the Austrian publicist and historian Hans Rauscher: ‘Brutal, naked mass violence against subjects is, at least in Europe and around Europe, no longer declared, insofar as Putins, Erdoğans, and Orbáns govern with the consent of a becalmed people, “freed” from all critical voices.’

But the difference goes well beyond their choice of whom to oppress and how. The autocrat of the mid-20th century was a strict and demanding father out to shape you into an ideal. He wanted you to modernise, learn self-discipline and, above all, self-sacrifice. When Mustafa Kemal Atatürk addressed soldiers during the Entente attack on Ottoman-held Gallipoli in 1915, he told them: ‘I am not ordering you to fight. I am ordering you to die.’ ‘In the Soviet army,’ said Stalin, ‘it takes more courage to retreat than to advance.’

Tough love was thus the signature attribute of the 20th-century dictator. Even when he wasn’t demanding the ultimate sacrifice, he wanted you to lose a few pounds, mothball your fez, lay some more bricks, join a state-run youth organisation (or five), learn a new alphabet (or even a new language) and call it your own, memorise some poems, songs or passages penned by the supreme leader and call them ‘history’. Even democratic heads of state once had higher expectations of their citizenry. That line from John F Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural speech – ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’ – now sounds like an admonition from an earlier, distant century.

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How Education Level is the Biggest Predictor of Support for Geert Wilders

Billy Ehrenberg-Shannon and Aleksandra Wisniewska report for the Financial Times:

Image result for How education level is the biggest predictor of support for Geert WildersEducation, rather than exposure to immigrants, is emerging as the clearest nationwide indicator of the likelihood of Dutch voters supporting Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration Party for Freedom, according to an extensive Financial Times survey of demographic and voting data from the most recent general election.

Mr Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) looks on course to win the most seats in the upcoming election on March 15, but is likely to be blocked from power after most parties indicated that they would refuse to join it in a coalition.

The PVV’s resurgence is part of a wave of populism that has swept Europe, capitalising on fears over immigration, growing Euroscepticism and anti-establishment sentiment.

The blond-haired populist paints an idyllic picture of his supporters, labelling them Henk and Ingrid.

In Mr Wilders’ words, they are the “backbone” of Dutch society: “Mr and Mrs Average with their own houses, one nice holiday a year and an active social life.”

In the eyes of Frits Bolkestein, a former mentor turned critic of Mr Wilders, they are something else: “People with a grudge. They’re unemployed, their daughter’s on drugs and their son has run away.” The reality is more complicated.

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The Dark Side of Liberation: Rape by American Soldiers in World War II France

Jennifer Schuessler wrote for The New York Times in 2013:

Image result for What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II FranceThe soldiers who landed in Normandy on D-Day were greeted as liberators, but by the time American G.I.’s were headed back home in late 1945, many French citizens viewed them in a very different light.

In the port city of Le Havre, the mayor was bombarded with letters from angry residents complaining about drunkenness, jeep accidents, sexual assault — “a regime of terror,” as one put it, “imposed by bandits in uniform.”

This isn’t the “greatest generation” as it has come to be depicted in popular histories. But in “What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American G.I. in World War II France,” the historian Mary Louise Roberts draws on French archives, American military records, wartime propaganda and other sources to advance a provocative argument: The liberation of France was “sold” to soldiers not as a battle for freedom but as an erotic adventure among oversexed Frenchwomen, stirring up a “tsunami of male lust” that a battered and mistrustful population often saw as a second assault on its sovereignty and dignity.

“I could not believe what I was reading,” Ms. Roberts, a professor of French history at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, recalled of the moment she came across the citizen complaints in an obscure archive in Le Havre. “I took out my little camera and began photographing the pages. I did not go to the bathroom for eight hours.”

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Donald Trump Plans to Bypass the Courts to Deport as Many People as Possible

Ryan Devereaux reports for The Intercept:

On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security released a pair of memos laying out how the agency intends to implement President Donald Trump’s executive orders on domestic immigration enforcement. In addition to calling for a massive increase in the number of immigration agents and the deputizing of local and state law enforcement across the country — described in the documents as a “force multiplier”— the memos dramatically expand the range of people who can be deported without seeing a judge.

“I see now what the plan is,” Greg Siskind, a Tennessee-based immigration attorney and member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association board of governors, told The Intercept. “Their plan is basically to have everybody thrown out of the country without ever going to court.” Additional immigration attorneys and legal experts who spoke to The Intercept shared Siskind’s concerns, describing various elements of the DHS directives and the executive orders they reflect as “horrifying,” “stunning,” and “inhumane.”

“This is the broadest, most widespread change I have seen in doing this work for more than two decades,” Lee Gelernt, a veteran immigration attorney and deputy director of the ACLU’s national Immigrants’ Rights Project, told The Intercept. “After 9/11 we saw some extreme policies, but they were largely confined to particular areas around the relationship between immigration and national security. Here what we’re seeing are those types of policies but also much broader policies just dealing with immigration generally.”

“I expected bad based on Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric,” added David Leopold, a Cleveland-based immigration attorney and past president of AILA. “Then when I read the executive order, I expected really bad … but I’m absolutely shocked at the mean-spiritedness of this.”

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White House Defers to ‘States Rights’ on Transgender Protections — But Not on Legalizing Marijuana

Zaid Jilani reports for The Intercept:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer cited “states’ rights” on Tuesday in defending the Trump administration’s decision to end the Obama administration’s federal protections for transgender students.

“The president has maintained for a long time that this is a states’ rights issue and not one for the federal government,” he said. “All you have to do is look at what the president’s view has been for a long time that this is not something that the federal government should be involved in. This is a states’ rights issue.”

But on Thursday, asked about federal marijuana enforcement, it was like the states had no rights at all. Arkansas-based reporter Roby Brock asked Spicer about the administration’s posture towards Arkansas’s new medical marijuana law.

Spicer suggested that the Trump administration would respect state laws related to medical marijuana — but not offer the same respect for recreational marijuana.

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Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds

Elizabeth Kolbert writes for The New Yorker:

The vaunted human capacity for reason may have more to do with winning arguments than with thinking straight.

1975, researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented with pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person who had subsequently taken his own life. The students were then asked to distinguish between the genuine notes and the fake ones.

Some students discovered that they had a genius for the task. Out of twenty-five pairs of notes, they correctly identified the real one twenty-four times. Others discovered that they were hopeless. They identified the real note in only ten instances.

As is often the case with psychological studies, the whole setup was a put-on. Though half the notes were indeed genuine—they’d been obtained from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office—the scores were fictitious. The students who’d been told they were almost always right were, on average, no more discerning than those who had been told they were mostly wrong.

In the second phase of the study, the deception was revealed. The students were told that the real point of the experiment was to gauge their responses to thinking they were right or wrong. (This, it turned out, was also a deception.) Finally, the students were asked to estimate how many suicide notes they had actually categorized correctly, and how many they thought an average student would get right. At this point, something curious happened. The students in the high-score group said that they thought they had, in fact, done quite well—significantly better than the average student—even though, as they’d just been told, they had zero grounds for believing this. Conversely, those who’d been assigned to the low-score group said that they thought they had done significantly worse than the average student—a conclusion that was equally unfounded.

“Once formed,” the researchers observed dryly, “impressions are remarkably perseverant.”

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What We’ll Tolerate, and What We Won’t

Nathan J. Robinson writes for Current Affairs:

What We’ll Tolerate, And What We Won’tIt wasn’t that he told a woman there was something wrong with her for wearing a hijab in America. It wasn’t that he encouraged people to “Purge the Illegals” and gave out ICE’s hotline number at a presentation. It wasn’t that he mocked a transgender college student in front of a crowd, saying he’d still almost bang her because she looked like a man. Instead, it was his discussion of the complexities of his sexual experiences with adults as a gay teenager that caused Milo Yiannopoulos to lose his $250,000 book deal with Simon and Schuster.

The swift recent reversal of Yiannopoulos’s fortunes is in many ways illuminating. The [now former] Breitbart editor had spent the last year building a public profile by going around American college campuses giving “lectures” with titles like “Why Do Lesbians Fake So Many Hate Crimes?” and “Why Ugly People Hate Me.” At these events, he would tell people why “feminism is cancer,” refer to various people as “cunts” and “retards,” and make jokes about how Muslims were probably terrorists. When appalled students tried to have the talks canceled, he would insist that the PC left was simply afraid to deal with arguments, facts, and statistics. (The more obvious explanation is that the PC left doesn’t think a person whose idea of elevated political discourse is “100% of fat people are fucking gross”—and who gigglingly posts pictures of the overweight people at his gym—is sincere about wanting to improve political dialogue on campus.)

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The Meaning of Milo

Ross Douthat writes for The New York Times:

[…] From Dubya’s evangelical conservatism to Milo’s Rimbaudian new right, from “marriage is between a man and a woman” to “well, we draw the line at ephebophilia” is a rather dizzying trajectory. But if you understand what’s happened to cultural conservatism over the last decade, the strange career of Yiannopoulos makes a striking sort of sense.

First, post-1960s social conservatism — the bigger-than-the-religious-right tent that once included a lot of moderately religious fellow travelers — has collapsed back to its zealous core. On practically every issue save abortion, liberals won the culture war decisively, and religious conservatives awoke to find themselves strangers in their own country, dismissed as bigots from liberalism’s pulpits and stuck on the wrong side of 40-60 or 30-70 public-opinion splits.

But social liberalism’s sweeping victory produced new forms of backlash — less traditionalist and more populist, less religious and more rowdy, not sacred but profane. These forms of resistance take aim at liberalism’s own forms of social-justice sanctimony, which have smothered academic life and permeated notionally apolitical arenas from late-night comedy to sportswriting. The resisters don’t exactly have a program. Instead, they’ve got a posture — a “whaddya got?” rebellion against any rules that the new liberal order sets.

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On the Milo Bus With the Lost Boys of America’s New Right

Laurie Penny writes for Pacific Standard:

Have you heard the one about the boy who cried Fake News?

This is a story about truth and consequences. It’s a story about who gets to be young and dumb, and who gets held accountable. It’s also a story about how the new right exploits young men — how it preys not on their bodies, but on their emotions, on their hurts and hopes and anger and anxiety, their desperate need to be part of a big ugly boys’ own adventure.

It’s a story about how so many of us have suffered the consequences of that exploitation. And it’s a story about how consequences finally came for Milo Yiannopoulos too — the worst kind of consequences for a professional troll. Consequences that nobody finds funny. Consequences that cannot be mined for fame and profit.

As I write, Yiannopoulos, the fame-hungry right-wing provocateur and self-styled “most dangerous supervillain on the Internet,” is fighting off accusations of having once endorsed pedophilia. Former friends and supporters who long tolerated his outrage-mongering as childish fun are now dropping him like a red-hot turd.

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The Rise and Fall of Milo Yiannopoulos: How a Shallow Actor Played the Bad Guy for Money

Dorian Lynskey writes for The Guardian:

Related imageSo there is, after all, a line that you cannot cross and still be hailed by conservatives as a champion of free speech. That line isn’t Islamophobia, misogyny, transphobia or harassment. Milo Yiannopoulos, the journalist that Out magazine dubbed an “internet supervillain”, built his brand on those activities. Until Monday, he was flying high: a hefty book deal with Simon & Schuster, an invitation to speak at the American Conservative Union’s CPac conference and a recent appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher. But then a recording emerged of Yiannopoulos cheerfully defending relationships between older men and younger boys, and finally it turned out that free speech had limits. The book deal and CPac offer swiftly evaporated. The next day, he resigned his post as an editor at Breitbart, the far-right website where he was recruited by Donald Trump’s consigliere Steve Bannon, and where several staffers reportedly threatened to quit unless he was fired.

In the incriminating clip, Yiannopoulos prefaces his remarks with a coy, “This is a controversial point of view, I accept”, this being his default shtick. Maher absurdly described him as “a young, gay, alive Christopher Hitchens” – a contrarian fly in the ointment, rattling smug liberal certainties – but Hitchens had wit, intellect and principle, while Yiannopoulos has only chutzpah and ruthless opportunism. Understanding Yiannopoulos requires a version of Occam’s Razor: the most obvious answer is the correct one. What does he actually believe in? Nothing except his own brand and the monetisable notoriety that fuels it. That’s Milo’s Razor. Understanding how he got this far is more unnerving.

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Margaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale sales boosted by fear of Trump

Reuters reports:

Margaret Atwood has said worries about women’s issues after the US election have made her book The Handmaid’s Tale the latest dystopian novel to shoot back up bestseller lists.

The book, about a theocratic dictatorship in the US where women are forced to bear children for the ruling class, topped Amazon’s bestseller list earlier this week, and still ranks in the top 10.

In an interview during Cuba’s international book fair, Atwood said sales of The Handmaid’s Tale were also boosted by a trailer during the Super Bowl for its new televised adaptation by video streaming site Hulu.

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Inside Donald Trump’s Selective Islamophobic Fear Machine

Jordan Charlton reports for Mediate:

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 12.24.43 PMOf the many dumbfounding things I observed on the campaign trail in 2016, one of the top head-scratchers was Republican voters’ selective fear and outrage toward what they call “Islamic terrorists.”

After I would follow up and ask if they’re equally concerned about the epidemic of disturbed, white Americans shooting up schools, movie theaters, malls, or spree-shooting while driving an Uber, I’d get a blank stare and an inability to speak coherent words.

This selective fear machine is what President Trump is preying on now: the fear that the “other” is a threat to our families, culture, and very existence.

Make no mistake: there is and will most likely always be a threat of foreign terrorists actively plotting to inflict maximum damage on the U.S. The president is not wrong to want to find ways to improve our border, cyber, and airport security within the bounds of the law, rights to privacy, and human rights.

But this is where he and the chorus line of neocons trying to manipulate him into another war are exposed as simple-minded bigots: in reality, Trump’s travel ban measure and “extreme vetting” philosophy aren’t aimed at keeping the country safe.

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Total recall: The people who never forget

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie reports for The Guardian:

Related image[…] She had always had a talent for remembering. She had also always dreaded change. Knowing that after they left New Jersey, nothing could ever be the same, Price tried to commit to memory the world she was being ripped away from. She made lists, took pictures, kept every artefact, every passed note and ticket stub. If this was a conscious effort to train her memory, it worked, perhaps better than she ever imagined.

Jill Price was the first person ever to be diagnosed with what is now known as highly superior autobiographical memory, or HSAM, a condition she shares with around 60 other known people. She can remember most of the days of her life as clearly as the rest of us remember the recent past, with a mixture of broad strokes and sharp detail. Now 51, Price remembers the day of the week for every date since 1980; she remembers what she was doing, who she was with, where she was on each of these days. She can actively recall a memory of 20 years ago as easily as a memory of two days ago, but her memories are also triggered involuntarily.

It is, she says, like living with a split screen: on the left side is the present, on the right is a constantly rolling reel of memories, each one sparked by the appearance of present-day stimuli. With so many memories always at the ready, Price says, it can be maddening: virtually anything she sees or hears can be a potential trigger.

Before Price, HSAM was a completely unknown condition. So what about the day she sent an email to a Dr James McGaugh at University of California, Irvine? That was 8 June 2000, a Thursday. Price was 34 years and five months old.

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Lean Out: The deafening post-November silence of Sheryl Sandberg

Sarah Lacy writes for Pando:

[…] The press didn’t make Sandberg into a feminist tech hero, she did. There was no pressure or precedent for female tech leaders to identify so heavily with women’s issues. And that’s why she struck such a chord with so many women. Finally a woman in power was saying all the things we all felt. It was particularly meaningful to me that she openly talked about motherhood– the joys, the challenges, and the strength of it.

This matters because Sandberg is easily the most senior woman in tech, and the most respected despite not being a founder or a CEO. According to First Round’s 2016 State of Startups, Sandberg was the most cited female answer to what tech leader people admire most. She got 1% of overall responses, compared to 6% for Mark Zuckerberg and 5% for Steve Jobs. She got 5% of the write-ins from female respondents. No other female leader came close.

Is that brand, that admiration solely because she is the COO of the only major super unicorn of the social networking era, and one of a few companies bucking to be the first $1 trillion market cap super duper unicorn? Maybe. But my hunch is her positioning as the flawed and vulnerable and yet commanding and respected woman a top that company, a woman who helps lift up other women, has played a massive role in people’s esteem for her.

So having voluntarily taken on this cause– and let’s face it, benefitted from that it in many ways– Sandberg must be well positioned to be a leader in this precise moment of feminist consciousness, right?

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The man who declared the ‘end of history’ fears for democracy’s future

Ishaan Tharoor reports for The Washington Post:

Francis Fukuyama, an acclaimed American political philosopher, entered the global imagination at the end of the Cold War when he prophesied the “end of history” — a belief that, after the fall of communism, free-market liberal democracy had won out and would become the world’s “final form of human government.” Now, at a moment when liberal democracy seems to be in crisis across the West, Fukuyama, too, wonders about its future.

“Twenty five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward,” said Fukuyama in a phone interview. “And I think they clearly can.”

Fukuyama’s initial argument (which I’ve greatly over-simplified) framed the international zeitgeist for the past two decades. Globalization was the vehicle by which liberalism would spread across the globe. The rule of law and institutions would supplant power politics and tribal divisions. Supranational bodies like the European Union seemed to embody those ideals.

But if the havoc of the Great Recession and the growing clout of authoritarian states like China and Russia hadn’t already upset the story, Brexit and the election of President Trump last year certainly did.

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Betsy DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary as VP Pence Breaks Tie

Yamiche Alcindor and Emmarie Huetteman report for The New York Times:

Image result for Betsy DeVosThe Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos on Tuesday as education secretary, approving the embattled nominee only with the help of a historic tiebreaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.

The 51-to-50 vote elevates Ms. DeVos — a wealthy donor from Michigan who has devoted much of her life to expanding educational choice through charter schools and vouchers, but has limited experience with the public school system — to be steward of the nation’s schools.

Two Republicans voted against Ms. DeVos’s confirmation, a sign that some members of President Trump’s party are willing to go against him, possibly foreshadowing difficulty on some of the president’s more contentious legislative priorities.

It was the first time that a vice president has been summoned to the Capitol to break a tie on a cabinet nomination, according to the Senate historian. Taking the gavel as the vote deadlocked at 50-50, Mr. Pence, a former member of the House, declared his vote for Ms. DeVos before announcing that Mr. Trump’s nominee for education secretary had been confirmed.

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The Dark History of the White House Aides Who Crafted Trump’s ‘Muslim Ban’

Josh Harkinson reports for Mother Jones:

The Trump administration has insisted since Sunday that the president’s executive order banning travel to the United States from seven predominately Islamic countries “is not a Muslim ban.” But as Mother Jones first reported in a series of investigations starting last summer, the two top Trump advisers who reportedly crafted the immigration crackdown—Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller—have a long history of promoting Islamophobia, courting anti-Muslim extremists, and boosting white nationalists.

For nearly a year before stepping down as the CEO of Breitbart News to lead the Trump campaign, Bannon hosted a SiriusXM radio show, Breitbart News Daily, where he conducted dozens of interviews with leading anti-Muslim extremists. Steeped in unfounded claims and conspiracy theories, the interviews paint a dark and paranoid picture of America’s 3.3 million Muslims and the world’s second-largest faith. Bannon often bookended the exchanges with full-throated praise for his guests, describing them as “top experts” and urging his listeners to click on their websites and support them.

One of Bannon’s guests on the show, Trump surrogate Roger Stone, warned of a future America “where hordes of Islamic madmen are raping, killing, pillaging, defecating in public fountains, harassing private citizens, elderly people—that’s what’s coming.”

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