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  • Jordan

    I read that against equality of opportunity thing a few days ago and it has some interesting points. But!

    1) The discussion of class mobility measures was bad. Like, pretty bad.

    2) There are lots of programs that can help that guy’s ideal whatever that get packaged under equality of opportunity. Given the widespread support for that idea, as a simple matter of politics, it shouldn’t be abandoned and should probably be expanded.

    Probably more stuff too, but I’m tired.

    • Murc

      It’s worse than that, really. The guy takes a definition of equality of opportunity that nobody actually uses and then argues vociferously against it.

      This is a literal (and I mean literal, not figurative) strawman. If he wanted to argue that we’re using language sloppily and shouldn’t be diluting a perfectly good phrase by using it in incoherent ways, I’d be deeply sympathetic. But he doesn’t make that argument except by inference.

      The article might have some value in making people think “Gee, even people who aren’t exceptional deserve to succeed in life too.” (This is something I wish more people felt; the C student deserves to go to college and have a good career. The guy who is only average at his job deserves to get pay raises alongside everyone else. Being average shouldn’t suck.) But otherwise it was a lot of wasted ink.

      • njorl

        The article might have some value in making people think “Gee, even people who aren’t exceptional deserve to succeed in life too.”

        That isn’t at all what the article is getting at. “[P]eople who aren’t exceptional” are the people whom equality of opportunity is aimed at. It fails even them, but not so spectacularly. There are millions of Americans who are significantly worse off than merely not being exceptional. For my children, “equality of opportunity”, is a guarantee that after my wife and I die, they will be tormented, abused, live briefly in poverty and die long before their time. That’s what equality of opportunity means for the least of us.

        • Murc

          “[P]eople who aren’t exceptional” are the people whom equality of opportunity is aimed at.

          … how so? If provided an opportunity, people who aren’t exceptional will… take advantage of it in an unexceptional way.

          I am using “exceptional” in the sense of “personal qualities and abilities.” Stephen Hawking is exceptionally bright, LeBron James is an exceptional athlete, etc. Were I provided with the same opportunities either of them have had, I would have failed miserably at taking advantage of them because I’m completely unequipped to do so.

          • njorl

            The vast majority of “equal opportunity” is about giving people of typical abilities access to typical opportunities which would otherwise be denied to them due to prejudice or poverty.

            • dilan

              I take Matthews’ point about meritocracy creating “deserving losers” being a very dangerous thing. I know everyone here hates Mickey Kaus, but that’s a point he made in his book 25 years ago, and he was right then and it is still correct now. That’s a very dangerous aspect of meritocracy.

              But I have a big problem with Matthews’ argument that there’s something wrong with the position that the affluent shouldn’t help their children. No, they really shouldn’t, at least to the extent they do. All those private schools and tutoring services and connections and everything else are just really, really bad for poor people in the aggregate. They create an aristocracy that perpetuates itself. I understand why they do it, but a society that attaches a bit of shame to making Herculean efforts to make sure that your children end up as rich and powerful as you are might be a slightly better society.

              I always liked it when Jimmy Carter sent Amy to public school. :)

              • njorl

                I’m of two minds. You have a duty to help your child become the best person they can be. Ideally, this would not just be the best thing for your child, but also the best thing for society. Unfortunately, for most rich people, it boils down to equipping your child to accumulate wealth more effectively.

  • shah8

    I have somewhat similar, but more vehement reaction as Jordan.

    This is the sort of thing that makes me want to take out that 12 gauge shotgun and pepper some neoliberal ass.

    1) Like the thing with “free speech”, the essay is fundamentally concerned with the constraints upon individual by a potentially overweening society expounding some intrusive philosophy. No. Liberalism is about making society taking the needs and interest of individuals into its policy and accounting. It’s not about Miltonian Devil individualism above all.

    2) A lot of the argumentation in the essay, if taken seriously, would be anti-mass education. (frankly, I do think we should ban most private grade schools, at least temporarily) Anti-public health like vaccinations. Anti-unions–I mean, that’s the gist behind bad faith assertions against closed shops. What’s the big deal about allowing everyone to find their own path in investing for their old age? These are all actual practical examples of society smoothing out opportunities.

    3) Dylan Matthews seems to deliberately take the sentiment expressed by politicians and run with it in the most harsh light possible while at the same time saying that nobody would support equality of opportunity if they took it seriously. Not only that, check the essay–zero real world policy cite of where some “equality of opportunity” based program failed people. But he expects us to accept the Good Will Hunting analogies! What?!

    4) Underneath a lot of the rhetoric in the essay, is an unspoken sentiment that we’re talking about exposed talent that everyone can see, and who clearly deserves more access and resources and enlighted life–pushing that Good Will Hunting angle as hard as possible. However, in real life, it’s not really that obvious who is talented and who isn’t, not all the time, and people with resources are very much able to stimulate talent. Politicians who talk about “equality of opportunity”, are talking and placating about the fact that the US suppresses and expropriates the benefits of the talents of many, who never had the opportunity to show that they can do the job, and get paid well for doing it. For example, I’d sure like some of that “equality of opportunity”, mostly on the private side. The gov’t side made sure I had resources enough to know there is more out there, unlike Dukie in The Wire.

    I think this little thing is going to attract a great deal of concentrated fire from people less angry and sleepy and loopy than me.

    • Honoré De Ballsack

      I don’t like to clutter threads with “+1 to what he said” type comments, but: +1 to everything shah8 said.

      I’ll also add that the Vox article uses so many ridiculous Harrison Bergeron-type straw men to define “equality” (e.g., “…any actions taken by affluent families meant to help their kids get ahead [would be] prima facie illegitimate”) that I had to keep reminding myself it wasn’t actually written by Matthew Yglesias (although the writer does give him a thank you at the end.)

      • njorl

        Sometimes the completely accurate is ridiculous. Such is the case here. The problem is not that he is wrong; the problem is what we consider ridiculous.

      • UserGoogol

        Dylan Matthews is in many ways like if you took Matthew Yglesias’s more annoying contrarian traits and doubled them. Which is to say I actually quite like him as a writer and think people tend to be a bit unfair to him.

    • njorl

      ‘ check the essay–zero real world policy cite of where some “equality of opportunity” based program failed people.’

      Can you find a dead cat? Swing it and you’ll hit one. He mentions lead poisoning amelioration programs. “I’m sorry, your opportunity was not de-equalized enough to qualify for re-equalizing.”

      I think you’re reading too much into it. I didn’t see anything in his essay saying that the things being done in the name of equality of opportunity were bad things. I can see the danger of people twisting his argument to something like “equality of opportunity is impossible so all public welfare spending should be abandoned”, but to do that, you’d have to disregard everything but his title.

      What I think he should have made more clear was that, while enhancing opportunities for the less fortunate is a good practice, it is impossible to equalize them, therefore, we should also tend toward some equalization of outcomes.

      • Linnaeus

        Yeah, like you and brewmn downthread, I read Mathews’s article differently than a lot of his critics seem to be doing. A good part of the reason for this, IMHO, is that Mathews’s attempt to critique equality of opportunity from multiple political angles results in, unintentionally I’m sure, obscuring the core of his argument. Which, if you think about it, is almost radical in the American political context. He’s saying that equality of opportunity is a policy framework that, if we were to extend it to achieve something like “true” equality of opportunity, would require policies that almost no one would advocate and that would be contrary to liberal principles. Equality of opportunity is therefore a concept that we employ to distinguish between the deserving and undeserving – people who fail should not get any help, which is something that would happen (for a number of reasons, some of which would be beyond a person’s control) even in a society of perfect equality of opportunity. So, in the end, equality of opportunity doesn’t really advance the goal of helping everyone achieve a decent quality of life.

      • ChrisTS

        If he had written what you did, I doubt many of us would object.

        The problem is that the essay is what one might expect from a bright college student: it is passionate but drowns a good point in a lot of howling into the wind. Liberals, as distinguished from libertarians, do not think equality of opportunity is the be all and end all. We recognize that some people cannot ‘compete,’ yet they deserve to not be left to their fates in a winner takes all society. Equality of opportunity and a decent life for all are not incompatible.

        • Linnaeus

          We recognize that some people cannot ‘compete,’ yet they deserve to not be left to their fates in a winner takes all society. Equality of opportunity and a decent life for all are not incompatible.

          Aye, there’s the rub. Mathews isn’t so sure that we really do recognize that. Implicit in the “opportunity, not outcome” paradigm is the notion that if one “squanders” one’s opportunities, however great or small they may be, then one deserves the negative results of that. It’s a misplaced faith in the idea of a meritocracy.

      • shah8

        In the real world, it’s a slogan for a far more amorphous policy.

        For example, free community college. Do people try to sell it as giving normal people greater opportunities? Yes. Is it a singular driving force behind getting such a thing accepted? No. There are other policy reasons. Some closely held, others also expressed so as to sell the policy. These may be equality of outcome reasons too, you know. Same with prison halfway houses. Or any number of other policies.

        Now, see where this is going?

    • UserGoogol

      I’d say the core point is that Dylan is making a philosophical argument instead of a political one. The point isn’t that equality of opportunity cannot be a perfectly functional slogan for beneficial change, but that it is not an intellectually sound basis for determining social justice. It is both inadequate to achieving truly just results and can actively lead to unjust results.

  • Brien Jackson

    The jurors in that trial….I can’t even. Just blow the whole jury thing up and start over already FFS.

    • matt w

      I read the article a few weeks ago, but I got the impression that the problem wasn’t with the jurors so much as with the prosecutors and judge. It was the prosecutors who decided to retry a case that should never have been tried in the first place, and the judge who set the evidential rules that were designed to throw up dirt into the jurors’ eyes–including that appalling thing where, because the defense had mentioned that Graf bought the kids a videogame system, it was suddenly OK for the prosecutors to smear him with the embezzlement charges. And of course the whole thing where people were being interviewed about their old testimony but it was not permitted to mention that the testimony was from a conviction that had been overturned because it was entirely based on junk science.

      At least one of the jurors held out. Do you think Graf would’ve had a chance with a trial by judge?

      • Halloween Jack

        Sadly, I think I knew how it would go when they showed the picture of the prosecutor posing–posing–with the acquired picture of the two boys. It left me wondering if he was merely interested in higher political office, or in trying to land a gig as second banana to Nancy Grace.

  • Incredibly, some of the skeptics are claiming vindication anyway.

    I’m not sure incredibly is the correct word at this point.

    John Merline of Investor’s Business Daily

    Really not sure.

    and Nick Gillespie of Reason

    HA HA HA HA HA! OK, the correct word is “Predictably.”

    insist Obama’s promises to save money for people with employer insurance has failed.

    Next up: People continue to get sick despite Obamacare therefore it is an utter failure!1

  • brewmn

    Unlike the commenters upthread, I think Dylan Matthews has the start of a really great argument. One question popped into my head right away when reading it: did Larry Ellison die? Since it does not appear he did, though what mechanism did she “inherit” $2 billion dollars, and how would a robust estate tax regime prevent that?

    Otherwise, I think his arguments needs to get more traction in the public discussion. This notion that only lazy moochers end up poor, or that the poor will always be among us and therefore whatcha gonna do, is one of the most pernicious in our political debate, and needs to be taken on.

    • Linnaeus

      Since it does not appear he did, though what mechanism did she “inherit” $2 billion dollars…

      This article in Forbes touches on this question. Apparently, Ellison’s children are the beneficiaries of trusts that he has set up, but it’s not fully clear how these trusts are structured. The children seem to have received most of their wealth in the form of stocks that Ellison has transferred to them.

    • Jordan

      I think there are some good very good points that Mathews’ raises and should get more traction in the public discussion.

      That said, what he says about inequality measures is stupid where it isn’t merely confused. And he doesn’t get into the political dimensions: if a policy can be sold under “equality of opportunity” that *advances* the goals he advocates and is partly able to be enacted *because* it sold under that framework, that is a completely legitimate reason to support that framework for that reason. And he doesn’t really engage with this point.

  • UncleEbeneezer

    Thanks for the Living Colour tune, Scott. One of my all-time favorite bands, and Stain was a very underrated album largely ignored compared to Vivid and Time’s Up. It’s amazing 20-30 years later how relevant LC’s lyrics are:

    “This Little Pig”

    56 times in 81 seconds…something like this

    This little pig has a mind of his own
    This little pig thinks he’s cool
    This little pig thinks that he’s all grown
    And this little pig needs school

    This little pig has something to prove
    This little piggie, he wants to be down
    Now this little pig wishes that he can undo
    The little pig that he shot down

    This little pig’s on a mission
    This little pig needs a plan
    This little pig’s got ambition
    This little pig does what he can

    “Funny Vibe”

    No, I’m not gonna rob you
    No, I’m not gonna beat you
    No, I’m not gonna rape you
    So why you want to give me that
    Funny Vibe!

    No, I’m not gonna hurt you
    No, I’m not gonna harm you
    And I try not to hate you
    So why you want to give me that
    Funny Vibe!

    “Which Way To America”

    I look at the T.V.
    Your America’s doing well
    I look out the window
    My America’s catching hell

    I just want to know which way do I go to get to your America?
    I just want to know which way do I go to get to your America?

    I change the channel
    Your America’s doing fine
    I read the headlines
    My America’s doing time

    I just want to know which way do I go to get to your America?
    I just want to know which way do I go to get to your America?


    When I speak out loud
    You say I’m crazy
    When I’m feeling proud
    You say I’m lazy
    I look around and see the true reality

    You like our hair
    You love our music
    Our culture’s large, so you abuse it
    Take time to understand, I’m an equal man

    History’s a lie that they teach you in school
    A fraudulent view called the golden rule
    A peaceful land that was born civilized
    Was robbed of its riches, its freedom, its pride

    When I’m at work you say I’m great
    You watch and ponder, but can you relate?
    Inviting eyes hands drop, when the music stops

    Don’t ask me why I play this music
    It’s my culture, so naturally I use it
    I state my claim to say, it’s here for all to play

    History’s a lie that they teach you in school
    A fraudulent view called the golden rule
    A peaceful land that was born civilized
    Was robbed of its riches, its freedom, its pride

    It’s time for a change
    Concepts rearrange
    Can’t you feel my rage…

    It’s up to you to seek the truth
    To know your history, the difference between me and you
    Relate to me as me, not what you see on TV

    History’s a lie that they teach you in school
    A fraudulent view called the golden rule
    A peaceful land that was born civilized
    Was robbed of its riches, its freedom, its pride

  • Drexciya

    Moving this comment thread here so as to not derail another topic about something else: I can’t overstate the inadequacy of moral arguments (and the resulting moral condemnation) when your conceptualization of certain argumentative conclusions doesn’t absorb, isn’t seeing and thus, can’t respond to the history or cultural associations behind those conclusions. You’re starting with the (occasionally correct, but sometimes-more-complicated-than-correct) strength of moral and conceptual priors that only seem shared and axiomatic because they’re stated in an environment where one can safely assume that a similar perspective with similar concerns is held without too much distinguishable variation and because that lack of distinguishable variation as a guiding post to validity of whatever truth communicated.

    More often than not, it justifies using argumentative and descriptive hammers when screwdrivers or “hm, maybe it’s not as broken as I thought’s” or “maybe adding that to how I talk/think about things” would be more appropriate, and it’s not an especially shocking coincidence that it’s happening along lines where white-centric considerations and framing breaks down and incorrectly assumes that the conclusions that are commonly held in predominately white spaces are ones that are objectively reached or universally applicable. And, as somewhat of an aside, it’s also not especially sensitive or even cognizant of how much of a mass-insult it is to call positions held by huge portions of black Americans “authoritarian” . I had a strongish reaction to it when I first encountered that here and it still makes me cringe, not even just for what it says and how unintentionally broadly it can be applied, but for what it misses.

    To apply that broad statement to something more specific, black kids, black parenting and dealing with the burdens of enduring some black parenting methods comes with extra burdens and extra baggage. It just does. Some people navigate that baggage by being gentle and clever in how they apply their view of what’s needed to reside in spectacularly violent local and political contexts that’s just as spectacularly punishing to black mistakes, some unrealistically Perfect Saintly People – I haven’t met them, but I’ve heard of them and don’t entirely doubt their existence – navigate that context with non-traumatizing, non-strict aplomb and still manage to communicate necessary survival skills, completely detached from their feelings about their own rearing and from any excess baggage/fear that may come from their own adult reactions, but since black people are human, you will also have somewhat more questionable approaches – which is hardly an invitation for non-black people to question them – where the calculus is best described as “if i do x, they won’t get shot, imprisoned or be permanently impoverished for having kids too early and if I don’t, they will”. Now, I have longstanding issues with this, some personal, some political, but if you can’t quibble with the calculus (and it’s much harder for white people to than it was even a couple years ago), you certainly shouldn’t start dropping “authoritarian” bombs when versions of this move outside of the safe, cheesy, and not-immediately-absorbed (by kids) confines of The Racial Talk.

    Which means accepting – but not necessarily agreeing with or relating to – the idea that some forms of that needed protectionism will, of course grow into physical violence as discipline, and accepting that, of course spanking itself has its own intra-cultural history and narratives many of which you won’t share and that come from contexts that might, at times, be foreign to your experiences, of course it’s going to mean occasionally asserting that a kid should be more restricted because, um, not every area is non-hostile to black people at night, and if you’re not properly affiliated/known/protected, even some black neighborhoods are foolish arenas for teenagers to play freedom tests. It also means being cognizant of the degree to which black people are hardly immune to the negative myths used to portray them and that one component of the Twice As Good principle involves demonstrating that – sometimes for the sake of survival, sometimes to acquire and realize an often fleeting sense of self/general respect – you’re not One Of Those and you won’t let your kids be one either.

    Let’s take it as a given that every bit of this is, without the least bit qualification, wrong. What is it actually doing if you’re calling out the wrong without addressing or responding to the motivations and contexts that inspire those views? What do you do if you can’t actually identify or respond to that context? And if your condemnations aren’t engaging the statements on their own moral terms or cultural associations, even factoring for the most charmless possible personality, you’re still left with a circumstance where you’re talking about different things from totally different positions and there’s no attempt to reconcile the validity of those differences (especially ones with racially shared motivations) because you’re in an environment where the nature of multicultural exposure means you don’t have to.

    Edit: Also, for the record, and not to be insulting, because I don’t mean it that way but…TJ sounds exactly like my parents and some of their generation, which is why very little of what he says surprises me, bothers me overmuch or is interpreted as too-incredibly-objectionable. How you argue with them is…not how you argue with them, and I’ll leave it at that.

    • Drexciya

      Also, as an addendum, there are dozens of different forms these kind of engagement-mistakes take, especially in white liberal circles. With discussions about anything – even things I have specific investment in – like homophobia, patriarchy/sexism, religion, Bill Cosby, crime and any number of things, wrongness is and can be present, but it’s not going to be correctly identified on any analytical level if you use the usual, white-centric measures for “wrong” as your determiners for how specific arguments are mistaken. This is something a lot of people who have an intersectional positionality have to contend with when doing intra-communal disagreement and I don’t see why, except for power and the consequences of misusing it, I would have to be more careful about what I phrase and how I consider x issue than any of you.

      Laverne Cox did it
      . Brittney Cooper did it. Throwing your support behind one argument doesn’t require the absence of other considerations, and when racism is involved, those considerations can shift the complexity needed to actually make your condemnation responsive.

      With all due IMHO’s.

      • ThrottleJockey

        With all due IMHO’s.

        Drex–As diplomatic as you are you should work for the State Department ;-) Curious, you say that my views are similar to the views of your parent’s generation. How old are they/you, if you don’t mind me asking?

    • Just a small point:

      And, as somewhat of an aside, it’s also not especially sensitive or even cognizant of how much of a mass-insult it is to call positions held by huge portions of black Americans “authoritarian” . I had a strongish reaction to it when I first encountered that here and it still makes me cringe, not even just for what it says and how unintentionally broadly it can be applied, but for what it misses.

      There is this social science concept “right-wing authoritarianism” which has to be about the worst name for a concept ever :) I think the *concept* can be sort of neutral, though I do think it’s hard to use that *name* neutrally.

      Valuing social order is part of the concept, but the valence of such valuing is hugely different if one is valuing social order as a reaction to community destruction by wrong policing, poverty, discrimination, etc. vs. valuing social order to keep certain groups in their place (with the destructive forces).

      Which is to say that I agree, I think! Nice comment.

      • ThrottleJockey

        I couldn’t agree more. Its a bizarre name as its technical definition has nothing to with the colloquial definition which predates it!

        Here’s a link to a political position quiz which uses the standard definition of Authoritarian vs Libertarian, which basically corresponds to how much a person believes that control or force should be used to enforce their preferred political values.

      • The Dark Avenger

        It is the first step in sociological wisdom, to recognize that the major advances in civilization are processes which all but wreck the societies in which they occur:—like unto an arrow in the hand of a child. The art of free society consists first in the maintenance of the symbolic code; and secondly in fearlessness of revision, to secure that the code serves those purposes which satisfy an enlightened reason. Those societies which cannot combine reverence to their symbols with freedom of revision, must ultimately decay either from anarchy, or from the slow atrophy of a life stifled by useless shadows.
        Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect (1927), chapter 3, p. 88; final paragraph of the book.

        Alfred North Whitehead

    • Ronan

      I think I agree with a lot of this, though (from my perspective) I would also extend it further. I think this problem could also be seen as that of the W(eird) I(ndustrialised)R (ich) E (ducated) and D (emocratic) phenomenon, which exists in multiple contexts (in every country, a lot of time between the values of the centre and periphery)

      What do you do if, (as I think is happening), a ruling discourse and value system develops among the best educated and those with most influence, that not only excludes but disparages the values and norms of large sections of society ? Is it the case that you only look to understand those divergent belief systems/norms if they come from societal groups you favour ? How do you thread the thin line between understansing/accommodation and excusing ?

      • ThrottleJockey

        This is why I harp on multiculturalism and intersectionality. A poor, black, cis woman is going to have a much different perspective than a middle class, white queer woman. Different is not the same as wrong.

        For me, at least, multiculturalism is a useful framework to begin discussing differences. We may or may not agree with a culture’s values, but we should try to avoid the trap that our values are superior to those of other’s. A little bit of moral relativism goes a long way.

        Some years ago India responded to a rash of rapes aboard its public transit by introducing women only taxis, rail cars, and buses. American feminists decried the move, Indian feminists applauded it. Obviously both feminist groups oppose rape, but the Indian feminists had a different view as to how best to practically eliminate it.

        • Ronan

          I guess agree with you in theory, but I also dont think there’s anything neccesarily underhand about something like a blog (which is more or less a self selecting community and/or group of friends/acquaintances) wanting to associate with people they (largely) agree with, or at least see as political allies. I think genuine ideological diversity on a blog would generally be a recipe for endless division and complete breakdown.
          There’s a different dynamic here than in society at large, where you *have* to (to a large extent) accommodate different values, beliefs etc

          • Drexciya

            The primary issue is that your stated accommodation is intended to work in only one direction and becomes a burden that’s – rather unfairly to my mind – shifted to others. That shift means that an “in” person’s normal views, blandly stated is automatically acceptable (because it’s coming from a place of shared cultural mores and values) whereas a divergent view that’s just as legitimate is both disruptive and socially disparaged unless they can state it perfectly, with little undue negativity. In a context where political propriety is culturally – and thus, racially – determined, that has…a number of problems and “in” responses face few of them. Power is doing just as much – if not more – under such a circumstance as organic growth.

            I have a number of things to say about that, but I want leave the import of the above to implication for now. I would also ask you to imagine what happens when almost every blog and political community is formed under similar standards, with similar effects, and how many people may, as I have on many occasions, declined to play.

            Semi-relatedly, this is relevant.

            Edit: I would also note that “decline to play” doesn’t just refer to not posting at all. Self-editing determinations will meet similar harshness. Stating only the opinions you know others will agree with, while leaving other things you feel – but know can’t be said without an enormous investment in developing a debate – alone.

            • Ronan

              Of course if *Im* ‘accommodating’ something then it’s working in one direction. I cant negate what I think is good or bad, right or wrong. Im not sure what the issue is with that phrasing.
              Im also not talking about race based differences specifically. Im not from the US so (1) didnt grow up in a racially divided country (2) I dont see ‘accommodating’ African American conservatism as neccesarily the only cultural difference. There are quite meaningful differences of values between ‘traditionalists’ and what we’ll broadly call progressives in every society, and so (to me) it’s an issue not defined by race (even in the US, Id gather, where cultural gaps seem quite strong on a regional basis, as TJ mentioned earlier.)

              “whereas a divergent view that’s just as legitimate is both disruptive and socially disparaged unless they can state it perfectly”

              Im not saying the divergent view is neccesarily disruptive. Im saying the dynamics of an ideological opponent being placed in an ideologically coherent, politically aware group can be disruptive. It’s a description of what I think is a pretty frequent reality. It’s not a normative preference.
              Anyway, I dont know what we mean by accepting different opinions here? In this case diversity seems to mean more African American voices on the masthead, which I think is a reasonable aspiration. But we’re not talking about more conservatives, or nationalists, or religous fundamenatalists, or Islamists or even Stalinists. If we’re talking about more African American liberals, then that would seem, politically, a relatively slight change of emphasis rather than a massive ideological divergence.

              • Ronan

                And tbh, i dont find TJ’s comments to be particualrly unusual. It is more or less a variant of the opinions of a lot of people I grew up with (whether on crime, or self reliance, or religion etc) I also dont always disagree with him. I think the main cause of contention, on the blog, rightly or wrongly, has been his perspective on the Cosby case. Other than that I think he is a moderate conservative with liberal views on a number of issues and a respect for certain ‘traditions’. Again, I dont really see why these perspectives would seem incomprensible to white people.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  “moderate conservative”? Them’s fighting words :-) I’m only conservative in relation to the mean LGM commenter.

                  I don’t think there’s anything underhanded about preferring an ideologically coherent clique, that’s a reasonable enough human desire. But how do you handle it when diversity comes to dinner? Are you civil with foes? Do you treat them the same as you treat the “in” clique”? This is where (IMO) multiculturalism comes in. Multiculturalism isn’t limited to just the culture of different ethnicities, it encompasses all cultures, including political culture. For instance, why should white liberals get to “own” the word “liberal” when there are minority liberals who hold opposing views? Is Obama less authentically liberal than Loomis because his views on the importance of the nuclear family mirror mine? If so, why?

                  Frankly, when it comes to the Cosby business Brad said it really well the other day: No liberal blog wants to discuss false rape accusations against black men because no liberal blog wants to suggest that it happens. But that’s like conservatives saying black people aren’t more likely to get hauled off to jail for smoking pot than white people are. And I criticize Loomis et al for that omission with the same vehemence that Loomis et al criticize drug warriors’ for theirs.

                  And, last but not least, I’m not suggesting that there should be more African Americans on the masthead. I’m suggesting that there should be more minorities on the masthead: Blacks, Latinos, LGBT, Asians, Indians, Muslims, Internationals, etc. How interesting it would have been, for instance, to have a Catholic Latino comment on the Pope’s visit this week?

                • Drexciya

                  LGM has a bisexual person on the masthead, which led to this excellent post/thread.

                • Frankly, when it comes to the Cosby business Brad said it really well the other day: No liberal blog wants to discuss false rape accusations against black men because no liberal blog wants to suggest that it happens.

                  Just for the record, I want to discuss such matters and value bein made aware of them. Every time it comes up, I go to project innocence to remind myself. Other resources welcome.

                  ETA: I hold both that false rape charges are rare and African American men are incorrectly accused and prosecuted. It might be tricky to be clear about that, but it is essential.

                • brad

                  That’s neither what I said nor what I meant. You’re deliberately and misleading inserting “against black men” in ways that border on offensive.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Brad–I’m not trying to twist your words. I linked to your comment so there would be no confusion. If you didn’t mean what I thought you meant what did you mean? We were talking about false rape accusations against black men. I never said that false rape accusations, in general, was a significant issue. And, btw, for the record, I didn’t support Incognito over Martin. Neither did I support Mayfield over the woman he beat up. I don’t like either of those ‘men’.

                  Bijan–Yes, I stand corrected. I forgot that the good Katie Surrence said she was bi-sexual earlier this week. (That was my first realization).

                • brad

                  What I meant was what I said, false rape accusations. They do happen, and it’s tragically clear when they do black men are by many magnitudes of order the most likely to be the victim of them, but they are also, in the admittedly limited sense of prosecutions for rape, becoming rarer and rarer. That doesn’t make them ok, nor is it meant to in any way dismiss your described lived experience of how the racist trope is still used and held against black men in countless ways today.
                  But what I meant is that the simple reality is that the number of unreported and unprosecuted rapes is countless orders of magnitude greater than all false reports of any kind, and MRAs and the more openly misogynistic elements of movement conservativism often make a big deal of false rape charges as if they are a common thing and proof of feminazis run wild. LGM is not going to treat maliciously intended, especially by the women as opposed to the prosecution, rape trials as a common thing in the modern era for any number of reasons.

                  It may be a fair question whether that means LGM and similar outlets then don’t pay enough attention to how the lingering trope is used against black men, but you make accusations instead.

              • Drexciya

                Mm, perhaps I was unclear: What I mean is, in predominately white spaces, we – or at least I’m – operating under “your house, your rules” conditions. That’s pretty similar to how most forms of code-switching and transferal of cultural norms take place. You don’t speak AAVE and its out-of-context utterance is usually looked down on, so I won’t use it, but you speak “standard” English, so I must speak that. But since we’re the only ones that have to leave our preferred social conditions to engage in broader political discussions and since we’re not usually deciding the parameters of those discussions and are poorly represented within them, we’re – or at least I’m – tasked with adjusting views that deviate with white norms to fit in more neatly with white expectations or adjusting the way those views are articulated.

                If I can expand this, I would say that “code-switching” is a concept that also works for what opinions you state, what opinions you leave alone, and where you state them. If TJ said what he said in a black church – not remotely a conservative venue, despite holding disagreeable views at points – he’d get laughter and no small amount of qualified assent, as Obama does when he gives the eye-roll worthy “Cousin Pookie sitting on the couch” refrain, imploring black parents to turn off their tv’s, lest they face the aforementioned consequences.

                Which is to say, TJ’s problem is not that he’s conservative, authoritarian or necessarily regressive, but that he’s code switching poorly or even better, deciding not to do it at all. And the ability to fail at it is only possible because the need to do so is shifted exclusively to “others”, and not to you. He has to be righter, by the standards presented and he has to not call you racist for using opinion-related unanimity to enforce that standard. But…the standard is a byproduct of the venue and the not-at-all-race-neutral filtering inherent to what kind of community is attracted to it (by academics, for academics involves no small amount of selective exposure to blackness and kinds of blackness).

                And to take this further: how fair is “your house, your rules” when you own all the houses? How fair is “your house, your rules” when you don’t need to travel to separate houses with separate rulesets for general political discussion? Once again, this is very much about power and its exercise and it’s not at all separable from white supremacy, which, at least for white Americans that claim to oppose it, confers obligations that are not at all met by adherence to the status quo.

                As for the rest, needless to say, being a part of an ethnic group is not in any respect like holding a philosophy that’s wrong. And as I’ve said many times and will say again, “African American conservative” and “African American liberal” rarely, if ever, mean what “conservative” and “liberal” do, and it’s very easy for an “African American conservative” to be more reliably Democratic and liberal than a “normal” liberal, especially on issues liberals are flaky on, like civil rights.

                • Drexciya

                  My comment is in moderation.

                • Ronan

                  I just want to note your comment, Drexciya (and TJ above) to say that Im not ignoring it. (I just want to think over it before/if I have anything to say in response)

                • Ronan

                  Just to say that I generally stay out of conversations about race in the US, just because I know Im probably blind to the subtlties and cultural context. So the following points are more general than specific:

                  (1) I get what you’re saying about there not being as fine a line between ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ among African Americans as there are among white americans. But I think (1) this is true in a lot of places, including probably within white america. Ideologies (for most) are fluid and incoherent. People have conflicting and contradictory positions based on gut, prejudices, history, emotion etc and vote for a variety of non ideological reasons (2) I think youre conflating party membership with ideology. The fact that African Americans generally only vote Dem doesnt mean that there isnt a broad category of AA political type that you could, through an aggregation of their political positions, broadly define as conservative. IIRC TNC noted this once, saying that if it wasnt for white racism then these people would probably vote conservative. So they are still conservative, even if they vote on different values.
                  I come from a country where politics isnt structured along ideological grounds as it is in the US. Where the Labour party went into coalition with the the Irish equivalent of the Tories. Where my grandmother claimed she would never not vote for the party she voted for her entire life even if they took away her pension and kicked her out into the street. So I dont see it as unusual.

                  (2) Interesting on the code switching, but again I think youre overemphasising its uniqueness to the African American experience. Plenty of groups (including white ethnic groups) in various contexts have the same problem with national/regional dialects, accents that identify them as a specific class, different grammatical norms etc Perhaps this is amplified in the US for African Americans, but again it’s not uncommon. And again the expectation that people conform to common rhetorical norms can be justifyable. The problem is that the people who can conform, or who can coexist with these two different methods of communication, are generally the better educated (ie privileged)

                  (3) we disagree on why TJ gets pushback. You argue its because he doesnt switch codes well, or refuses to. I think its because he has political positions which lean to the right of the norm here. I would bet heavily that he would receive the same pushback if his race wasnt known. And as I said above, his positions (in general) dont strike me as particularly unusual, and can be found in various guises in white societies around the world, so I dont see what aspect of what he’s saying identifies him as African American (apart from the fact that the context means he’s generally talking about African Americans)

                  (4) again, the majority of the pushback has been over TJs arguments in the Cosby threads. This is a place with pretty strong in group norms about sexual violence; who is at risk, where the burden of proof lies, so on and so forth. In different contexts, yes, TJ would get different responses. But this is what it is. This is where he is. I could pretty easily get together a posse that would give TJ a ‘fair’ hearing on the topic, and probably with a few coming out supportive. But this isnt that place, for good or ill (good I think)
                  And we all restrict ourselves. What debates we engage in, what we say, how we conduct our conversations etc I am willing to accept all of these things are amplified for an African American in a white space, but theyre not unique.

                  (5) I dont mean to say any of this to make light of racism, either on the individual or collective level.The fact that African Americans suffer historical and continual discrimination appears a pretty clear empirical fact. Im not talking about racism in white societies at large, either American, Irish or anywhere else. Im not trying to say I have no racial bias, or that I am absolved from any complicity in structures of white racism and privilege. Im certainly not saying that this blog doesnt have plausible race blindspots (and perhaps an over emphasis on sexual assault cases involving black males is one of those) Im just saying that in this instance, I think youre overstating your case.

        • Hogan

          Who are the American feminists who decried women-only transit?

    • brad

      I’m working on a long reply but it may be a bit until I can finish, so just popping in to say more words are coming and I haven’t lost track of this convo.

      • brad

        Meh, much of it would now be redundant or seem non responsive considering what else has been said, so I’m starting over and trying to be more brief. The absence at times of nuance and qualifications does not mean I intend or believe anything I’m about to say to be categorical or definitive in the ways it may sound, to be clear. This is me arguing my perspective, not telling it how it is or any such crap.
        I disagree that the history of white authoritarianism and the… immense and continuing suffering of black people from it means that it’s a mistake to say black people can also be authoritarian. That doesn’t mean it isn’t on me and those like me to learn or create different terminology and find more racially sensitive ways to communicate our views, but it also doesn’t mean that black culture cannot unintentionally incorporate and maintain aspects of white supremacy itself, to be blunt in ways I realize I don’t really have a right to, or that authoritarianism is inherently part of white supremacy instead of the human condition. And at the individual level, when TJ tries to use black culture as a defense of child abuse no one is going to accept that, and if that’s truly a culture gap you’re going to find it largely unbridgeable in ways that I’m not going to always apologize for. And we’re not talking spanking, we’re talking the abuse Adrian Peterson was prosecuted for.
        Context matters a lot, and you’re absolutely correct that I don’t know where TJ is coming from, though I also think you’re too dismissive of the ability of white people to be aware of the world around them. But you’re eliding his responsibility to be aware of the context he’s in, here, which amounts to “make a good argument”. He doesn’t, and you’re right that there’s a lot that goes into the response he gets but that basic fact also has to be faced.
        But he’s not the point, and to confuse what you’re saying with a defense of positions you don’t hold would be a disservice to you. The greater point that you find it offensive to label black culture in any way authoritarian is worth dwelling on, because the word itself means shit to me, the point is the underlying insights that come from recognizing the authoritarian strain in society’s structures and possible ways we can improve them from doing so. It, despite the connotations and so on, is not wrong to be authoritarian, at least imo. But it is wrong to let that perspective assert itself unquestioned and unchallenged. And to again be blunt in ways that may well be insensitive but hopefully will advance the dialogue, at times I think you get so focused on the how and why that you, to me, can lose a bit of sight of the what. But I think that’s at least partially due to the context and the points you’re choosing as primary, and whatever kind of asshole I am I’m not a big enough one to dismiss that choice.

        • ThrottleJockey

          Let’s set aside differences of opinion over values; they may indeed be unbridgeable. The reason we talk past one another is because of this word, “authoritarian”. This definition you’re employing couldn’t have less to do with the Webster’s definition. I will never accept that I’m an authoritarian because every political and personality test I’ve ever taken says that I am exactly the opposite. My very first personal and political principle is: Live and Let Live.

          That being said, I’m more cautious about jettisoning tradition than many LGM liberals. I value the nuclear family in the same way that Obama does. I think there are certain truths to folk wisdom. I worry that some liberals are “out of touch” when they find offensive a set of ‘Dating my Daughter Rules’ that most Americans–including the working class ones we purport to fight for–find funny. I think that religion is as important an aspect of diversity as is race. But anyone, like myself, who thinks the Court’s legalization of gay marriage this year was his happiest political moment, second only to Obama’s election, can’t be all that traditional!

          • brad

            I have been unclear in the sense that while it’s obvious you’re not politically authoritarian I never directly said so, but in my mild defense I was taking that to be blindingly obvious and unnecessary to state. But it was unclear, and there are degrees of anything. I don’t think you want a traditional values dictatorship or anything absurd. Saying I think you place at times too great a value on tradition and authority doesn’t mean I think you’d line up with white Christian conservatives.

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