Listened to Tribalism, Anger and the State of Our Politics from On the Media | WNYC Studios

An extended conversation with Lilliana Mason about tribalism, anger and the state of our politics.

If solidarity and the recognition of mutual self-interest are the keys to moving past our fractious moment, it can be hard to see how we'll get there. Anger and tribalism appear to be at an all-time high, creating political and societal rifts that seem unbridgeable. Indeed, it is hard to believe that only 70 years ago, the country was deemed by political scientists to be not polarized enough. In 1950, the American Political Science Association put out a report that suggested that the parties were not distinct enough and that it was making people's political decision making too difficult.

Over the next few decades, they became distinct alright. Lilliana Mason is a political psychologist at the University of Maryland. When we spoke to her last fall, she told us that most people think they know exactly what each party stands for — leaving us with two camps that both seek to destroy the other. 

Listened to Curiouser and Curiouser from On the Media | WNYC Studios

A close-up on John Solomon's role in the impeachment saga, and the black nationalist origins of Justice Clarence Thomas.

President Trump’s concerns about corruption in Ukraine began, in part, with a series of articles in a publication called The Hill. On this week’s On the Media, a close-up on the columnist whose dubious tales may lead to an impeachment. Plus, the black nationalist origins of Justice Clarence Thomas’s legal thinking.

1. Paul Farhi [@farhip], Washington Post media reporter, and Mike Spies [@mikespiesnyc], ProPublica reporter, on John Solomon's role in the impeachment saga. Listen

2. Corey Robin [@CoreyRobin], writer and political scientist at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, on all that we've missed (or ignored) about Justice Clarence Thomas. Listen

This is a fascinating thesis about Justice Clarence Thomas and who he really is. I totally want to read The Enigma of Clarence Thomas now.
Liked a tweet by Kevin M. KruseKevin M. Kruse (Twitter)
Read a thread by Mike CaulfieldMike Caulfield (Twitter)

👓 Leaked Emails Show Stephen Miller’s Unfiltered Anti-Immigrant Views | Mother Jones

Read Leaked Emails Show Stephen Miller’s Unfiltered Anti-Immigrant Views by Noah LanardNoah Lanard (Mother Jones)

Miller promoted white nationalists, cited a racist novel, and praised a eugenicist president.

In private emails in 2015 and 2016, President Donald Trump’s top immigration adviser touted a vilely racist novel that warns of a migrant invasion, promoted the ideas of white nationalist publications, and raged at retailers who stopped selling Confederate flags in the wake of the massacre of black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina.

On Tuesday, the Southern Poverty Law Center published excerpts of emails Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s assaults on immigrants, sent to the right-wing outlet Breitbart. Miller’s embrace of ideas and language used by the “white replacement” conspiracy theorists who populate alt-right forums has long been known. But the unusual thing about the emails, which were provided to the SPLC by a disaffected former Breitbart editor, Katie McHugh, is that they come from a time when Miller was willing to put his ideas in writing. These days, well aware that he’s a target for Trump’s critics, he’s careful to avoid a paper trail by sticking to phone calls.

Read a thread on Twitter by N. K. JemisinN. K. Jemisin (Twitter)
A post-#DemDebate2 thought: I too was a beneficiary of bussing. Except now I understand how damaging that framing is. Really, bussing allowed white schools to benefit from *me,* all for the low price of student budget dollars they were wasting anyway.
My mom was like most black parents then -- doing the best she could. The private schools in town cost the earth. The black-neighborhood schools had 12+ yo textbooks, no AP, underfunded everything, tired teachers. White public schools were a good middle ground. But.
I struggled for years with poor self esteem because I had somehow absorbed the idea that black =/= smart, and that I should be grateful to sit by white kids. That my school was doing me a favor by making me get up predawn to ride a bus for an hour. I had that Joe Biden thinking.
But in retrospect, I made those schools look good as hell. Won academic awards left & right, mostly bc I loved to read and that was half my education right there. The much-vaunted AP classes were a joke; I mostly did self-study and busted 4s and 5s on the exams.
There were dozens of black kids like me in those white schools. Probably more. But I don't know, bc we were parceled out so there would be only a few of us in each class. Enough to look good, diversity-wise. Not enough to support each other, or make the white ppl uncomfy.
My most vivid memories of high school aren't social, but pathological. I remember being on prom committee and fighting to get *any* black music played; the principal still banned rap. I remember the school pulling shenanigans to bump a black valedictorian to 2nd place.
Battles like that every day, every step of the way. We did well, and everyone expressed surprise, and told us it was because we'd been "given" an opportunity to share space w/white kids - not that we'd earned it. If we struggled, though, of course it was because we were black.
On balance, they got bragging rights. Scholarships! Ivy League acceptances! *I* got an early introduction to how racism covers for white mediocrity and ego, and probably a couple of extra years of therapy. Also maybe an early start on a few novels. Was so bored I wrote in class.
So I'm like most black Americans of my gen in having mixed feelings about integration. Structural racism worked as hard to erase whatever we gained as our parents had worked to give us those gains. And a big part of the struggle was people like Biden. "Not racist" racists.
The equivocators, the pleasant moderates, so happy to appease blatant racists at our expense. Sure, integration, but not if it forces white kids to sit alongside inferior black kids. (We're always inferior.) Sure, "states rights"! Sure "school choice" (to reinstate segregation)!
White liberals who would be appalled to be called racist... but who believed, same as white conservatives, that we really *weren't* as good or smart as them. But at least they were willing to do us a favor -- a limited one, dependent on their generosity and continued primacy.
Not going anywhere in particular w/this. I'm not a Harris supporter. She did say a thing that needed saying, tho -- a thing that moderate white Dems really need to think about when they wonder why we don't trust them. We *remember.* We see you. That's why.
You are as much to blame for where we are as a country right now as Trump & his ilk -- because you won't push back. You have principles but won't stick to them. You're weak and cowardly when lives are on the line, but you tell yourself you're being smart and diplomatic.
We need strength and courage right now. We need conviction, and obstinacy, and anger. If you won't fight, what fucking good are you? Looking deadass at Nancy Pelosi right now.
::sigh:: My pressure's probably up, and I'm harshing my own post-vacation mellow. Rant over. Toodles.
hat tip:

👓 How Facebook and Twitter Help Amplify Fringe Websites | Anti-Defamation League

Read How Facebook and Twitter Help Amplify Fringe Websites (Anti-Defamation League)
Extremists are leveraging Facebook and Twitter to ensure that the hateful philosophies that begin to germinate on message boards like Gab and 8chan find a new and much larger audience.
I’ll note here that I’ve noticed that sites like Gab have been working at transitioning into projects like Mastodon as a means of getting around roadblocks related to getting their mobile apps into marketplaces like the Apple and Google app stores.

We need far more tools to help individuals to control the crap that they see on the internet.

👓 Gab Will Become a Mastodon Fork | Michael Tsai

Read Gab Will Become a Mastodon Fork by Michael Tsai (mjtsai.com)
App Review’s previous stated rationale for rejecting the Gab app was that the service didn’t do a good enough job of moderating the user-generated content. Gab claimed that they try their best to do this but that Apple’s requirements are impossible to meet. Clearly, Twitter and other social networks don’t always meet them, either. But Twitter is too-big-to-reject, and Gab has a reputation for offensive content, attracting a community of users that were banned or had their posts deleted from Twitter.
Interesting end-around app stores…

🎧 Sheila Nevins on Age, Sex, Love, Life, and Everything Else | Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda

Listened to Sheila Nevins on Age, Sex, Love, Life, and Everything Else by Alan Alda from Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda

Sheila Nevins has explored the human condition in the thousand or so documentaries she produced for HBO. From more than 30 years of telling us stories about ourselves, to her experience as a woman in the workplace, Sheila has plenty to say about communicating. And she never holds back. In this delightful episode, Alan Alda talks with Sheila about her life, how she feels about aging, the movement, sex, divorce, documentaries, storytelling, and just about everything else! This episode is sponsored by Calm. Check out www.calm.com/alda for more details.

I always forget that Sheila is as old as she is. She does have a great sense of humor.

She makes an interesting point about humility that people with power (and especially within the entertainment industry) should be aware of and work to improve.

Most shocking was the story she tells about her me too moment and how she viewed it. Definitely a perspective I wouldn’t have expected.

Her perspective about looking at individuals as a way into human problems and making documentaries is similar to a philosophy I remember hearing from Masha Gessen in an interview that Jeffrey Goldberg did with her. The upshot is that, especially for righting wrongs and general atrocities, focusing a story on a particular individual has a lot more power than focusing on the nameless and faceless masses. Sheila’s example of the Holocaust survivor is a particular apt one. (As I think about it Masha would be a great interview for this podcast.)

In fact, I recently watched an immigration related documentary on Frontline and while I didn’t personally find the lead woman very relate-able or sympathetic, I was still pissed off at the process because her individual story was still so powerful.

This general ideal also reminds me of the gut-punch scene at the end of the film A Time To Kill (1996) [spoiler alert] which ends with the command to the jury “Now imagine she’s white.”

Read Power, Polarization, and Tech by Chris (hypervisible.com)
In Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, he writes about early colonists and how the rich were feeling the heat of poor white folks and poor black folks associating too closely with each other. The fear was that the poor, despite being different races, would unite against their wealthy overlords. Shortly after, the overlords began to pass laws that banned fraternization between the races. The message to poor whites was clear: “you are poor, but you are still far better than that poor black person over there, because you are white.” Polarization is by design, for profit.
Read It ‘makes you feel invisible’ by Rachel Hatzipanagos (Washington Post)
It happened again. Nicholas Pilapil got an email clearly meant for his co-worker, Jonathan Castanien. Previously, Pilapil had missed a meeting invitation because their white co-workers couldn’t tell them apart. So they came up with a cheeky way to address the problem. Between their desks, Pilapil and Castanien hung a sign that read, “This company has worked __ days without an incident. Incorrect names are avoidable.”
Bookmarked Two Towns of Jasper (Vimeo)

In 1998 in Jasper, Texas, James Byrd, Jr., a black man, was chained to a pick-up truck and dragged to his death by three white men. The town was forever altered, and the nation woke up to the horror of a modern-day lynching. In Two Towns Of Jasper, two film crews, one black and one white, set out to document the aftermath of the murder by following the subsequent trials of the local men charged with the crime. The result is an explicit and troubling portrait of race in America, one that asks how and why a crime like this could have occurred. An Independent Television Service (ITVS) and National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) Co-presentation and a Television Race Initiative (TRI) selection.

Hat tip: This was mentioned in Episode 049 – Pop Culture Academia, Screen Time, and Automated Delivery | Media and the End of the World Podcast