“Life is just one damn thing after another.”—Will Rodgers.
1. “Dear White People.” Yes, that’s the name of what “Entertainment” calls an eagerly awaited Netflix series. The title is racist. Whites, however, are supposed to ignore constant efforts to stereotype them by skin shade, “otherize” them by designating people of non-color as “you people” (the term the NAACP erupted in outrage over when Ross Perot used it to describe their members), and generally employ the same demeaning rhetoric that if used in the other direction would be attacked as racist.
The proposed rule appears to be that males and whites, and especially white males, should capitulate to this demeaning double standard, concur that they are twin blights on civilization, and if they do not, and find themselves driven into the arms of the national elected leader and the political party that does not accept the rigged “principles” that constitute consent to be bullied, persecuted and insulted, that means they are “white supremacists” and misogynists.
The gamble, I suppose, is that whites and men are really, really stupid and cowardly, and this divisive hypocrisy will prevail.
I could be wrong, but I think it’s a bad bet.
Post script: From the Babylon Bee: “Ilhan Omar Introduces Resolution Condemning Racism, White Men, And The Jews.”
2. Abuse of authority. In an op-ed, Professor Ian Baruma uses one of my least favorite intellectually dishonest tactics, the “pick an admired long-dead icon and read his mind” trick. The headline: “Churchill Would Despise Boris Johnson.”
Such a title should dissuade any rational reader from proceeding to the text, and no competent editor should let such junk (it is blatant Cognitive Dissonance Scale manipulation, a technique mentioned in today’s earlier post) litter the pages of a publication under that editor’s oversight. Similar arguments are “Mozart Would Hate The Beatles,” “Jesus Would Favor Universal Disarmament,” and “Walt Disney Would Detest Anime.”
These are intellectually dishonest arguments designed to persuade stupid and ignorant people. It’s not nice to fool stupid and ignorant people. Nor ethical. A history professor who does that is not just abusing his chosen dead icon’s authority, but his own.
Aristotle would despise Baruma’s op-ed.
3. Related to the futile “What would [Jesus/Lincoln/Martin Luther King/ Mother Theresa] do? ” question is the criticism of some members of the Armstrong family’s monetizing Moon-Walker Neil’s fame and memorabilia.
Beginning last year, Neil Armstrong’s sons began promoting a series of auctions of about 3,000 mementos from their father’s moon mission, NASA career, and life. They included an American flag that had flown to the moon on Apollo 11; a flight suit their father had worn earlier in his career; and many non-space possessions like Armstrong’s childhood teddy bear.
This has caused a serious family rift as well as criticism from others who knew the astronaut. “I seriously doubt Neil would approve of selling off his artifacts and memorabilia,” said James R. Hansen, his biographer. “He never did any of that in his lifetime.” Neil’s second wife, Carol Armstrong (Wife #I Janet Armstrong is Rick and Mark Armstrong’s mother) has refused to sell any of her husbands possessions that passed over to her, donating the memorabilia to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. She and her adult children, Andrew and Molly, believe Armstrong would have opposed profiting from his fame and achievements. Meanwhile, the Armstrong boys have netted $16.7 million in sales to date.
A related controversy involved a threatened medical malpractice lawsuit against Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital, near Cincinnati. Armstrong died in 2012 after complications from heart surgery. The hospital paid the family $6 million to settle its claim that his treatment had been negligent and fatal. Carol’s side of the family refused to join the lawsuit or accept any of the cash. Her husband had considered the cardiologist a friend, Carol Armstrong maintains, and she is certain Neil “would not have wanted her to sue the doctors or the hospital.”
I have strong feelings about this evergreen issue. The dead have no right to constrain the autonomy of the living unless they take legal steps to do so while they are alive—and even then, I think it’s unethical. From the other side of the issue, “X would have wanted Y” is pure speculation and emotional blackmail, unless X’s desires were explicit, in writing, and reasonable.