The Gap Kids Ad

gapkids

The photo above was part of a recent ad campaign for Gap Kids. The campaign, which launched last week, is in collaboration with Ellen DeGeneres’ lifestyle brand ED. Gap is donating $250,000 to the charity Girls Inc. to support its economic literacy program.

Criticism erupted on social media and elsewhere that the ad gave a message of “passive racism.”

Nathalie Yves Gaulthier, founder of Le Petit Cirque, the youth performance group whose members are seen in the ad, tried to explain, saying in part:

“The child in the ad is not an ‘armrest,’ she’s the other girl’s little sister. They are a very close family. The child is a very young (junior) member with Le Petit Cirque, a humanitarian cirque company, and therefore a wee shyer than the more seasoned older outgoing girls. Our company is deeply saddened by some people misconstruing this as racist, and are keeping the children out if this at the moment to protect their beautiful feelings , but we are extremely supportive of dialogue in our country to move past any racial barriers…”

Gap decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and replaced the image in the campaign. It apologized to critics last week, saying:

“As a brand with a proud 46-year history of championing diversity and inclusivity, we appreciate the conversation that has taken place and are sorry to anyone we’ve offended. This GapKids campaign highlights true stories of talented girls who are celebrating creative self-expression and sharing their messages of empowerment. We are replacing the image with a different shot from the campaign, which encourages girls (and boys) everywhere to be themselves and feel pride in what makes them unique.”

It’s a non-apology apology, of course, a clear #8 on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale:

“A forced apology for a rightful or legitimate act, in capitulation to bullying, fear, threats, desperation or other coercion.”

Corporations are more or less forced to capitulate to “gotcha!” accusations like this, because there is no up-side in fighting them, and the companies’ job is to make money while alienating as few people as possible. If Social Justice Warriors and aggressive race-baiters are determined to claim that an ad intentionally denigrates a black child as subordinate to white children, then that message will overwhelm the ad no matter what is said or seen.

This is a rare case where I would say that a non-apology apology is ethical and indeed preferable to grovelling for forgiveness. Gap decided to say, in essence, “OK, you win. We don’t think there is anything wrong with the add other than the fact that some people are upset by it, and while that may be their problem and not ours or due to any real problem with the ad, we don’t want to upset anyone.”

Wonderfully, an earlier ad from last year for the campaign didn’t cause a ripple:

Gap Kid 2

Neither ad is racist, of course, not in intent, not in message. Some people who are determined to make communication impossible have conditioned themselves to see it as racist and literally lie in wait to attack, hoping, as with all power plays involving imagined racial grievances, to bend others to their will, and to acquire power over the free expression, including artistic expression, of others.

Was it an inappropriate image for the ad? Yes, because we are all on notice that those reflex “gotcha!” race baiting social justice warriors—social justice muggers is a better description–-are out there. Thus Gap Kids was careless and negligent, resulting in innocent kids, whose complete unawareness and lack of interest in their various colors should be the objective of society, not a target of critics, were labeled as “racially insensitive,” which is bad, when they really were just race-blind, which is marvelous.

A society that sees no difference between those two images is the one that we should be striving for. That society is the one that the critics of the recent ad are trying to prevent, and doing a damn good job at it.

How can that possibly be ethical, good, desirable, rational, responsible, or right?

It isn’t.

35 thoughts on “The Gap Kids Ad

  1. I’m surprised at the Gap. Heterosexual ads have been the norm for centuries, then they added people of color to the mix to be PC. Don’t children who know they are gay need a voice? (I’m sure I will get bombarded here but I guess I asked for it). Seeing a gay kid in an ad may help the same viewer feel “accepted” and part of the norm. 60 Minutes or one of those shows did a special where they visited twin boys every few years. One was the typical boy with disheveled room/hair, into trucks. His brother’s room was immaculate as was his appearance. Their parents decided to let them be who they are. The boy who was a neat-freak wanted pink and lavender for colors. I’m not sure how I’d feel if I had a son who wanted pink, since it has been inbred in all of us that pink is not a “manly” color. This study showed a lot. Usually (research up to that point) showed that if one twin was gay, the other one would be too. I know of a few sets of twins who are gay. But in this situation, it appeared, as they got older, that the “trucker” remained heterosexual.
    My parents would say that the world is going to pot and what is this new trend of “gayness?” I remind them (and also point out friends of theirs) that this is nothing new and that people are just talking about it more and hopefully the bullying and abuse wouldn’t be like it was 25 years ago.

    • Does liking pink make a man less of a man? Does it make a man homosexual? Such an arbitrary thing that society decided to make a big deal over.

      Gender is stupid.

      I like green and black and purple and blue, I’m not overly fond of red or orange. If the world had gone a different way people would think that says a lot about me which of course it doesn’t.

      So does applying meaning to pink make any more sense?

      • “Gender is stupid.”

        No, you just halted your understanding of it at the color pink, and are projecting your stunted understanding on other people. “Gender” is something that evolved over time, and while certain drawbacks haven’t been selected against yet, I’ll gladly have a debate with you over whether it’s a positive distinction or not (spoilers: I think it is.)

  2. I still haven’t quite recovered from having that ad properly explained, identifying the rage I should be feelling.

    I needed an upgrade, feeling only ‘micro’ aggressed didn’t validate the depth of my despair.

    It got worse.

    Seeking shelter from the manufactured storm, I found someone parked in my ‘safe space!’

  3. I get it. In the color image above, the black girl being used an armrest looks so sad, and her body language fully reflects that. She obviously does not want to be there. She’s just…there, a prop. Everyone else in the ad is active, doing something.

    The second picture, the white girl being used as the arm rest looks active, defiant even. Everyone in the second ad is looking at the camera with a “so what of it?” expression, so no one looks too jarring.

    The first Gap ad, the eye is immediately drawn to the sad little girl, and you wonder why she is so sad. The mind immediately supplies, “Probably because someone is using her head as an armrest.” And given the background history of using black women’s body as inanimate props, a million thinkpieces were launched. Which should have been entirely predictable to anyone with eyes, but somehow Gap flubbed it.

      • Poe’s law may be in effect in either event. As I understand it, it simply states that parody can be mistaken for belief or belief can be mistaken for parody. I’m guessing deery’s comment is not parody.

      • I’ll just say that I would not approve of my kid posing like either of those two on the far left and far right in the first (color) image, for a photograph to be published. There is something about those two poses – I can’t describe it – that is too close to what deserves to be called soft-core kiddie porn.

        • Furthermore: All races and skin colors being equal, I do not think there is anything cute, clever, or catchy (advertising-wise) about showing one kid with her head used as an arm-prop by another, taller kid. I really can sympathize with someone who sees that image and takes issue with a perceived theme of dominance and submission, or privileged and under-privileged. Oddly (perhaps), and, any photo sizing or orientation issue aside, I would not object to the same two kids, with the shorter one riding atop the shoulders of the taller one.

  4. I did not even realize the image was related to the article; I read the first two paragraphs and understood nothing.

  5. Gap has fallen out of fashion since they were the go-to in kids’ wear. This may have added to their cowardice. It may also have been a preemptive “doubling up” attack on the company for having a gay icon as a feature in the first place. What bothers me about this is that advertising agencies themselves are now more than ever apt to back off on black-and-white images, and revert to either all one or the other (making sure they have an even number of each, in spite of one consumer group being only 12% – or less, depending on income levels – lower than the other), or just happily dancing multicolored letters and numbers.

    Even a year ago, that would have been an exaggeration . . . .

    Every back-down and apology of whatever level slides us further and faster down that slippery slope of stupidity, and the deeper we fall, the more fear, resentment and backlash is climbing up the opposite hill.

  6. Jack wrote: “A society that sees no difference between those two images is the one that we should be striving for. That society is the one that the critics of the recent ad are trying to prevent, and doing a damn good job at it.”
    ___________________

    A vast system is interested in blending the ‘races’ through an also vast and complex cultural project called ‘multiculturalism’. These projects, in our nation, extend out of Civil War politics, and it has so very much to do not so much with ‘organic’ social processes and ‘choice’ or ‘agreement’, but with coercion and force. “You WILL be integrated! You WILL blend!”

    I have unfortunate news: many people do not desire to do this. So, the society of ‘should’ and ‘ought’ makes demands that are resisted. If the subject cannot resist overtly, and openly, s/he will dissemble.

    If a moral or ethical imperative is established (we ought to do thus-and-such) and if someone, for some reason, does not agree, that one will be vilified.

    And there is the problem.

    I disagree not only with those images but with the PR campaign (it is a form of mild propaganda) that stands behind all of it. But I also do not agree, and I do not accept, the overt expression of feminist values that appear in the images. If I could, at least for myself, I’d turn it all off. The fact that vast entity which I do not know, cannot see, and which allows me no choice, uses these tools to get behind my values and my consciousness to ‘persuade’ me, I regard as evil.

    • If you or anyone could articulate what possible benefit there is to have society make distinctions between individuals based on the color of their skin, I could take this comment seriously. Nobody has, and nobody will. The position is simply that race is useful to distribute benefits and claim grievances. That’s a cynical and selfish position, not an ethical one. “I have unfortunate news: many people do not desire to do this”: why would you conceivably call that “news”? Yes, those who benefit from race distinctions are loathe to abandon them. So what?

      More bulletins from Captain Obvious: “The PR campaign (it is a form of mild propaganda)” ALL PR is mile propaganda.

      Boy, wait til you see my next post, on “Zootopia.” Or SEE “Zootopia”.That NOT mild.

      • I look at – have looked at – and read all sorts of different materials. One of the reasons I am at least somewhat shunned here (and seen as ‘insane’) is because I tend to speak about what I see ‘out there’ in the world of ideas, in the wide cultural world. Simply mentioning that makes you guilty by association.

        That world of ideas is a messy, chaotic place, and there various strains of ethics and morality are expressed. One of them is cultural chauvinism which, at certain points, touches on ‘race’ or ethnicity. I do not think that is a topic for this blog.

        You come at these questions, if I understand you right, from the position of a member of a ‘propositional nation’. I think your approach, and many of your ideas, is nobly founded. I don’t mean that as an empty phrase. Nobility is high on my value-list. While I can say that I understand this, I cannot say that I accept it at a philosophical level. (I mean accept the ideas that inform the ‘proposition’).

        This is one example, although an indirect one, which takes issue with the (forced) idea of America as a propositional nation. I have the sense – at least today – that I tilt toward this sort of argument and thus away from an argument that assumes ‘multiculturalism’ as a free-standing value.

        http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=24240

        I think people should be able to live in their ‘ethnic cultures’ is they so decide. I do not see that as the problem (or the sole problem), and I tend to agree that it is ‘forced blending’ that creates a problem. I would be (at least I think I’d be) comfortable in a nation of different regions and one not ruled by an absolute and universal law. Not because I do not recognize such a place, were it to exist, as non-problematic, but because the advantages to be gained seem considerable from the perspective of what is lost when a universal system (of values) is applied by fiat. (I realize that ‘fiat’ is not exactly the right word and it is deliberately dramatic).

          • I find your tactic interesting. Do you deprive all your opponents of their discourse by appropriating it, rephrasing it, and reducing it to a *meaning* which you define and control?

            I’d imagine (if I am right in noticing your tactic as I describe it) that you will allow discourse to those ‘on your side’. That is, will welcome their discourse, respect it, pass it on.

            But do you reserve a special right to occupy someone else’s speech, modify it, reduce it, and then spit it out to them saying effectively? ‘Here is what you mean …’ (Or, ‘I’ll tell you what you mean!’ but will not allow that other person to mean what they mean by allowing them their (intact) discourse?

            What I said, is what I said. And what I mean is what I wrote.

            I reserve the right – that is, I claim the right – to think what I think, see what I see, and express what I mean in the way that seems true and also good. I don’t allow any other to get inside me to then direct me.

            ‘You’ (as this person speaking here) and a ‘larger social culture’ as well as a ‘coercive mass of people’ inappropriately feel that you owe yourself some right of hegemony in determining values into absolute terms.

            I doubt that you’d well understand that I resist this, nor why.

            • I have no special right to unilaterally change the meanings of words, but then, neither do you. What you wrote was clearly a paean to segregation; I didn’t change the meanings of anything you wrote to get that, I just read it, because that is what you wrote. If you don’t like that I used the word “segregation,” take it up with the English language, not me.

              I didn’t “translate” anything, I was simply succinct, a quality you could stand to read up on.

              • Well, a paean is ‘a joyous song or hymn of praise, tribute, thanksgiving, or triumph’ and what you did, and what you still do, is to semantically inflect words to support, in essence, your condemnation of what you believe you understand of my view. It is a form of deviousness. True, you are exaggerating for effect and it is done quite often.

                I said, and I stand by my meaning, that ‘I think people should be able to live in their ‘ethnic cultures’ is they so decide’. I can give a few examples. I have been watching Japanese films of late, and recently watched ‘Late Spring’ (1949) by Yasujiro Ozu. His films depict Japanese culture with its customs, its rituals, its ethos, its characteristics which are, well, thoroughly Japanese.

                When I was watching it I could not help projecting myself into it and I realized how completely foreign I would be there. To participate there one has to be from there. One’s body has to have been raised up there, on that soil, in that climate. The cultural traditions are so unique and in a sense fragile. I would simply not ever imagine, say, importing Zulus, or Aboriginals, or rural Americans from Alabama, into that matrix of culture. What I mean, and what I said, is that a culture and an ethnicity has the right to decide who it will include and exclude (if it came to a matter of choice) and no authority that I recognize has the right to insist; to experiment socially; to disrupt a culture that operates according to its own ethnic rules and designs, to engineer it to be something else. Or to engineer it into a giant Walmart where everyone looks, talks, acts and sees the same.

                (We have a tremendous collection of films here – 800 or so – in addition to an extraordinary book collection). Six months or so ago I was watching Louis Malle documentaries – do you know him? – and one comes to mind he shot in Wisconsin in the 80s (the Reagan years or thereabouts). A white homogenous culture. Farmers. Rather closed cultures which defined themselves by their historical ethnicity or nationalism. Again, same thing: that culture has a right to be what it is and not to be engineered by some agency, or through some capricious choice of someone/anyone who is not a member of that community itself.

                If in either of these instances you name that ‘segregation’, and if you mean that ‘segregation’ (the term you insist I must use) is wrong in these contexts, and they do not have that right to define themselves and to control what occurs in their community, then I certainly resist you view, however you structure it. Were yo to be an authority, and were I to discern you doing this to me (if these were my communities) I’d name you as my enemy.

                I do not agree in the notion of a ‘propositional nation’, that is, a universal declaration of value of that sort. I see this as a destructive philosophy. It is not absolutely destructive, but it has a strongly destructive element.

                I understand that to be ‘American’ is to be something rather abstract (insofar as the ‘proposition’ claims people to Americanism). I do not agree with it. It is culturally imperialistic and imperialistic in other senses too. I resist the whole absolute notion. And yet I also accept that this is what ‘Americanism’ has become, and it entails in this sense a surrender of identity to the abstraction.

                I did not say that you changed the meaning of words, I said that you arrogatingly injected your own *meaning* and value-judgment into my discourse. You arrogantly assumed that you knew more of my meaning than I do myself. But you don’t.

                I’ll tell you what I mean.

          • You really read that? That’s a painful and bias-laden stretch.

            Segregationism would require a legal force compelling separation.

            Alizia distinctly stated she’d be fine if people chose to live in their own culture groups and not leave them, just as she’d be fine if they did decide to leave them. That is a decidedly liberty-oriented solution.

        • “One of the reasons I am at least somewhat shunned here (and seen as ‘insane’) is because I tend to speak about what I see ‘out there’ in the world of ideas, in the wide cultural world.”

          Oh quit playing martyr. You aren’t ‘shunned’. People generally just try not reply to a whole lot of excessive verbiage that on one reading could mean something entirely different from a separate reading. People shun ambiguity and also shun long diatribes that try to sound academic, when they very well could be summarized.

          You aren’t shunned because of some self-styled ‘larger view of the world’.

          Spare us a martyrdom, please.

    • “A vast system is interested in blending the ‘races’ through an also vast and complex cultural project called ‘multiculturalism’.”

      I think this is a fundamentally flawed assertion. There are two forces you see in affect in America – “melting pot” and “multiculturalism”.

      The former, that is, melting pot, had been the traditional American view and still holds some sway. Through it you saw a uniquely American process of assimilation by which new cultures and cultural interactions were governed by type of “objective pragmatism”. This governing element caused American culture to be changeable, albeit slowly, and typically in improvement. What new ideas and modes of behavior or unique cultural techniques that were introduced and superior to an old way was rapidly adopted, but vice versa, if an inferior technique or mode of conduct was introduced it was speedily ignored in favor of the established, tried and true.

      Waves of immigrants brought sometimes better ways, sometimes inferior ways…Ameican pragmatism took the good and culled the bad. Always with an improvement on the overall cultural. This was a purely free market function.

      Now, you have a new mode of thought – this “multiculturalism”. It doesn’t seek to blend anything, it rather would continue divisions between the people and would rather compel some culture groups not to assimilate.

      I think you should reconsider your thesis in light of this.

      • Hello there Tex. I had not seen it till I looked up ‘melting pot’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melting_pot

        The term reveals a good deal standing behind it.

        When the term ‘multiculturalism’ is used by the Right but more properly by the AltRight (which tends to challenge the established Right as well as to ridicule them), it must I think be understood as reflecting both a philosophy and a policy. I am not going to speak too much about the AltRight positions, though I am aware of them. The nature of this Blog is to explore traditional, largely American (in the sense of ‘American civil religion’: a complex identity and belief structure) and the more traditional political underpinnings: Constitutionalism, established jurisprudence, etc.). The AltRight debate is in many senses radical to this. It represents a reexamination of a wide range of materials and it leads to a different appraisal and understanding of the common and accepted political and social ideas. It is understood by many, and described by many, as a manifestation of (if you will) ‘political illness’ because it has links to hard right thought and also to fascistic forms: the totally inconsiderable.

        But let me crack the code of the word ‘multiculturalism’. In European terms, let us say in terms of England, multiculturalism refers to a policy of deliberately allowing immigration from the colonies of dark-skinned people into a culture and polity that was White. The arguments for and against can quite easily be accessed. Those who oppose the ‘multiculturalist project’ in England right now resent that their cities and communities have been transformed or perhaps ghettoized is a term they might use. They say that their communities are ‘unrecognisable’ now. There are many different inflections in the various oppositional positions and it is not a monolithic position. But it is ‘nationalistic’ and it is concerned for ethnicity and culture.

        The faction that stands behind so-called ‘multiculturalism’, and it must be noted which desires and wishes to see come about a literal racial blending (this even has solid roots in America with the Grimke sisters and is an outcome of a neo-Christian religious-philosophical position), is generally speaking a left, left-socialist or left-communist formulation. Its philosophical roots are complex. On one hand the outcome of a religious ideology and on the other an outcome of a radical political ideology.

        In America and in relation to American ‘multiculturalism’, or let us say the main plank of the argument against it, locates its counter-argument in a shift in immigration policies (quotas) after the 2WW. Whereas before they established restrictive quotas (read: allowed whites from Europe), in the 50s and 60s these quotas were defined as racist and modified. The people who oppose this project of multiculturalism – that is deliberately changing the ethnic dynamic and producing an eventual situation where whites (European descended) are not a majority – understand this as a loss, and they describe it in various ways (it is non-monolithic).

        This the questions revolve around many of the hottest and most difficult issues, questions and problems of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

        When you look – for example – at Europe right now, and when you enter into the philosophy of the debate that is on-going about cultural identity and such, and when you further examine the platforms of the right wing, as well as the more radical right-wing, you will discover a cogent, if ethnocentric and nationalistic, political-philosophical discourse which is ‘radical to the present’. As I have said before: there are theorists who radically oppose what they term ‘Americanization’ of Europe with the importation of ‘multicultural ideologies’ that come – as you have said – with all the force of ‘free market function’. They notice how this ‘Americanization’ has adversely transformed their countries and communities and they are nostalgic for alternatives.

        I did not, after reading your thoughtful comments, feel a need to reconsider my thesis. I felt a need only to expand on the thesis that is not really ‘mine’ but rather exists, and is articulated.

        • Oh, well if all you wanted to do was bemoan Europe’s tragic inability to assimilate immigrant cultures, then by all means, continue. Europe isn’t exactly a shining example of inclusiveness (never has been and never will be – quite possibly one of the reasons immigrant populations haven’t sloughed off much of their own cultures to adopt superior aspects of the host culture).

          But their “multiculturalism”, as you put it, sounds more like an immigration policy, not an assimilation policy.

          “They notice how this ‘Americanization’** has adversely transformed their countries and communities and they are nostalgic for alternatives.”

          Mostly because European ideas of assimilation never really tried “melting pot”. Instead of creating incentive for their immigrant populations to dump their old ways in favor of better ways while offering some better ways in return, Europe generally keeps them in a stagnant “stay as you are” mode…much like the American Left does to culture groups here.

          To me, it sounds like you are just bemoaning the Left’s failed methodology (which I have no issue with), but then completely ignore a tried and true method of assimilation in order to toy with your ‘AltRight’ ideas – just another distinctly European (and flawed) idea. Though, don’t get me wrong, some Americans are starting to espouse ‘AltRight’ ideas.

          **I think “Americanization” is an awfully general term to pigeon hole for the use you have found for it.

          • Clumsy wording clarification:

            “To me, it sounds like you are just bemoaning the Left’s failed methodology (which I have no issue with)”

            I have no issue with you bemoaning the Left’s failed methods.

          • I did not imagine myself ‘bemoaning’ that or anything else. Actually, I ‘bemoan’ our tendency to use cliche terms in our discourse when we want to take a poke at the other. Chris recently used ‘paean’. 🙂

            And I did not imagine myself speaking of Europe’s ‘tragic inability’ to assimilate immigrant cultures. I am not sure what is tragic. But if ‘tragic’ and ‘tragedy’ is a topic, it could be an interesting one.

            Nor did I feel that I had been influenced to bring any part of my investigations to a halt, and so, yes, I suppose I will ‘continue’.

            ‘Multiculturalism’ is a term that is used by different people in support of their different concepts and policies. As we all well know it is one of those too-general terms that gets let loose in discourse. We need generalizations and yet they always have a down-side. Possibly – and simply FYI – it may be Sweden that has a bona fide multi-culturalism assimilation project. There are some Swedes on the AltRight who feel very strongly that this is a wrong turn, and they work hard to locate the political, sociological and philosophical underpinnings to that multi-culturalist project. Ideas always have roots as well as consequences.

            To get a better idea of an oppositional position see Pierre Krebs ‘Fighting for the Essence’. (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00838LAAK/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?ie=UTF8&btkr=1) I read it and, found it cogent and sensible, but also a little too abstract, maybe idealistic is the word? However, he very clearly defines an anti-American stance.

            _________________________

            Tex wrote: “Mostly because European ideas of assimilation never really tried “melting pot”. Instead of creating incentive for their immigrant populations to dump their old ways in favor of better ways while offering some better ways in return, Europe generally keeps them in a stagnant “stay as you are” mode…much like the American Left does to culture groups here.”
            ___________________________

            Nationalism would not, by its very predicates, be amenable to a ‘melting pot’ ideology, that much is pretty obvious. (America really did and perhaps really still does represent a unique ideology as far as civic form goes. There is no question: for a group of reasons ‘Americanism’ is a very powerful social and national ideology. This is just a statement of fact.)

            I don’t know much of depth of European ideas in this area. I can imagine, say, French nationalism and republicanism as being pretty demanding of immigrants to assimilate, and yet at the same time not very interested in seeing those immigrants fully integrate.

            What is ‘better’ and what is ‘worse’ and even what the ideal is and should be – that I am uncertain about. I find myself rooting for the European right, and specifically the French ‘reactionaries’, like Marion Marechal le Pen. I’ve listened to her discourse and I find I don’t object to its tenets. She is (and many in her party are) very lucid and clear. It is described by, say, the NYTs as an evil rising up out of the filth of hell itself, but I don’t see that.

            _____________________

            Tex wrote: “To me, it sounds like you are just bemoaning the Left’s failed methodology (which I have no issue with), but then completely ignore a tried and true method of assimilation in order to toy with your ‘AltRight’ ideas – just another distinctly European (and flawed) idea. Though, don’t get me wrong, some Americans are starting to espouse ‘AltRight’ ideas.”
            ____________________

            Ever heard of the semanticist S.I. Hiyakawa? I came across his ‘Language in Thought and Action’ (1949) in my bro-in-law’s book collection and was glossing through it.

            To ‘bemoan’ and ‘paean’ let us now add ‘toy’.

            1) The Left’s ‘failed methodology’ may not, in actual fact, be ‘failing’ at all. It might be succeeding brilliantly. Your term is semantically charged and thus leads you (potentially) away from a more accurate assessment to the loaded and potentially false one of ‘failure’. In fact, the discourse of the Left has quite likely ‘infected’ your so-called right or ‘conservative’ stance. I think you referred to deery as a ‘lots cause’? I’d ask the question: Is it possible that something similar has happened in you? (Just a question).

            2) If I am ‘toying with ‘Alt-Right ideas, a childish relationship to ideas is implied. Like playing with matches? There are different levels of inflection here. Childishness, innocence, folly, danger. But you will grant no sensibility to it? Thus the entire discourse is swept off of your platform. Politically Correct thinking?

            3) You have merely alluded to an apparent fact of your discourse: that Europe has ‘failed’ on some level. Similar to the ‘failure’ of the Left. By noting ‘failure’ you posit what you hold to be ‘success’. This is a pretty clear and common tenet of ‘Americanism’. I do not argue against it, as I too share many of those assumptions. But not all do, and there is a critical position.

            4) You have linked all this together and thus solidified your opinion that the Alt-Right, even if gaining adherents or making philosophical headway, is flawed and will end in ‘failure’. Note the use of the word ‘espouse’.

            (Late Middle English (in the sense ‘take as a spouse’): from Old French espouser, from Latin sponsare, from sponsus ‘betrothed,’ past participle of spondere).

            We have Bemoan, Paean, Toy, and now Espouse. (We resort to these nearly outmoded terms – voces fatigadas – when we want to make semantic points and I find it curious).

  7. Alizia:
    You stated:
    “That world of ideas is a messy, chaotic place, and there various strains of ethics and morality are expressed. One of them is cultural chauvinism which, at certain points, touches on ‘race’ or ethnicity. I do not think that is a topic for this blog.

    Why not? You made a categorical statement without any rationale to support your POV.

    You went on to say. . .

    “You come at these questions, if I understand you right, from the position of a member of a ‘propositional nation’. I think your approach, and many of your ideas, is nobly founded. I don’t mean that as an empty phrase. Nobility is high on my value-list. While I can say that I understand this, I cannot say that I accept it at a philosophical level. (I mean accept the ideas that inform the ‘proposition’).”

    Are you not making a propositional argument as a member of the “propositional nation” that you reject on philosophical grounds?

    On the following point I was in agreement with you until I read beyond the first sentence.

    ( Alizia) “I think people should be able to live in their ‘ethnic cultures’ is they so decide. I do not see that as the problem (or the sole problem), and I tend to agree that it is ‘forced blending’ that creates a problem. . . .” (I agree to this point only) ….
    (Alizia) “I would be (at least I think I’d be) comfortable in a nation of different regions and one not ruled by an absolute and universal law.” Not because I do not recognize such a place, were it to exist, as non-problematic, but because the advantages to be gained seem considerable from the perspective of what is lost when a universal system (of values) is applied by fiat. (I realize that ‘fiat’ is not exactly the right word and it is deliberately dramatic).

    I see a huge difference in being free to live within an ethnic culture and morality. What specifically are the considerable advantageous you see in terms of what is lost when we apply a universal system of values? More importantly, how many different regions would be necessary so that none of the regions had a universally recognized set of values established by the community; which means that anyone at anytime could reject the societally established acceptable behavioral standards and do as he/she pleases.

    If I understand you correctly then there can be no universal truths or ideals. Do you suggest that cultures that are plagued by violence and crime because it is part of their cultural ethos should be allowed to perpetuate that culture irrespective of the fact that it might be damaging to the human beings that exist within that culture? Does this idea extend down to the familial level that children can adopt any behaviors that might be in conflict with the parent’s mores and values? How would you reconcile that?

  8. In the simplest terms, and perhaps with this I will only share with you a subjective impression, I see ‘mass culture’ in America as being a sort of mono-culture. This might have most to do with huge and very efficient modes of communication.

    It seems to me that with so much power concentrated in the Federal government that regional power is weakened. You don’t need me to refer to that situation and to the concerns about it. In my present view, I would feel much more comfortable in a nation that allowed for regional differences to exist. I suppose that the reference I am making is to ‘state’s rights’, and that I suppose that with a weakening of state’s rights that a larger, federal entity dominates more, and then of course establishes and extends its federal reach. I would suggest that in this, though there is certainly a tangible gain, there is also a tangible loss.
    _______________________

    Chris Marschner wrote: “What specifically are the considerable advantageous you see in terms of what is lost when we apply a universal system of values?”

    _______________________

    Well, universal values can mean good values which naturally convince people at a universal level. And it can also mean ‘universal impositions of ideas (or laws) which function against established cultural will, custom, tradition, etc.

    I could give one good and solid example, though it touches on difficult and hot topics. The notion of ‘cultural remodelling of the Middle East’ and ‘cultural reengineering of long-standing cultural traditions’ in numerous of those ‘backward’ countries to get them to see the light of our modern ways and interpretations of value, has been said to act as an ‘acid’ which eats away at a range of structures which prove necessary to hold those cultures together.

    In Mexico there is such a thing called ‘antropología aplicada’ (applied anthropology). Anthropologists trained up at the sophisticated national institutions with sociology backgrounds are sent into rural communities from the urban centers with the express project of modernizing them. It leads naturally to the question: Who and what stands behind this ‘modernization’ project? And what ends does it serve? If, let us say as an example, the applied antropology project ultimately serves, shall we say, the business interests of such a country, we might interpret processes of modernization differently than, say, if it were only a question of teaching hygiene or helping in the medical arena. It is not too hard to see that the issue of ‘cultural imperialism’ is a complex one, but in any case one that can be rationally considered and thought about.

    _______________________

    Chris Marschner wrote: “If I understand you correctly then there can be no universal truths or ideals. Do you suggest that cultures that are plagued by violence and crime because it is part of their cultural ethos should be allowed to perpetuate that culture irrespective of the fact that it might be damaging to the human beings that exist within that culture? Does this idea extend down to the familial level that children can adopt any behaviors that might be in conflict with the parent’s mores and values? How would you reconcile that?
    ________________________

    I guess I would say that it depends on which ‘universal truths and ideals’ you are referring to.

    You might now ask me if I think that those authoritarian Middle Eastern cultures should be ‘allowed’ to continue on as they are said to always have, or if we or someone ‘should’ intervene because we hold to a perceived higher value. There is a great deal of complexity in this issue and it is very hard to sort through it.

    How a culture and society defines itself, and how it establishes its cultural institutions that continue those value-traditions (education, religious training and participation, the organization of the family, child-rearing, etc.) is very much the heart of the entire question.

    To work with the example you are proposing, it is useful to locate a ‘negative’ power concentration or idealization and test it in the realm of the conceptual. Take for example a dedicated Marxist cadre, a communist, who understands his function as that of destablizing these stiff patriarchal or bourgeois institutions in a given country or community; undermining the family as the primary authoritarian unit, and sending the little ones to reeducation centers to get brought up to speed with ‘Universal Marxist Truths and Ideals’.

    What one readily sees is that these are value-issues and they are not simple to decide.

    In my view, to understand ‘multiculturalism’ as it functions today, and in our own country (if I assume you are American), one must examine a whole gamut. Doing so will lead you squarely into the ‘culture wars’.

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