an open letter attacking the attackers of “cancel culture”;
[Space kept blank for the next iteration].
There are plenty of left-wing thugs pretending that “cancel culture” is a fraud, and there are plenty of right-wing thugs pretending that they and their thuggish cronies don’t play the same nasty sport. For us, the smartest takes are:
But, really, “cancel culture” is what we gotta solve right now? One would think that being inundated with plague, and having the World heating to the point of no return, and with the three superpowers being led by homicidal maniacs, that would be plenty enough on our to-do list. But, if taking hair-trigger offense and being a Blockleiter is your thing then, sure, go ahead and have fun.
After signing a deal to publish Woody Allen’s memoirs, The Hachette Book Group has pulled out. That comes after Ronan Farrow whined about the deal and HBG employees walked out in protest. HBG spokeswoman Claire Cottrell stated that “The decision to cancel Mr. Allen’s book was a difficult one”, but of course Claire is lying. What was difficult, and what proved to be too difficult, was for HBG to stand up to a lynch mob. Meaning, we suppose, that we’ll have to stick to actresses for models of integrity, rather than self-righteous publishers.
The New Yorker has just published an essay by Jonathan Franzen on this second type of denialism, on the refusal to confront our current and impending death. Franzen’s essay is gentle, heartfelt, pleading and depressing. The essay, along with its author, hasalsobeencondemnedfarandwide.
Franzen’s essay has not convinced me that we are doomed. Much more convincing has been the vicious and fundamentally empty response, which does nothing so much as to prove Franzen’s point.
It is difficult to know what Scarlett Johannson was thinking when she came out in support of Woody Allen. Of course it didn’t take long for the #MeToo gang to fire back. And true, the social (?) media mob might have wanted to have first read this, or this, or this, or this, or this, or this. But why let information slow down a good, old-fashioned lynching?
July 20th was the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s walking on the moon. Well, maybe.
I still have vivid-grainy memories of watching Armstrong’s first steps. A random few students from each class in Macleod State School were selected to go to the library to watch the event on the school’s one TV. I was not one of the lucky few. But Mr. Macrae, our wonderful Grade 4 teacher, just declared “Bugger it!”, determined which student in our class lived closest to the school, and sent out a posse to haul back the kid’s 2-ton TV. We then all watched the moon landing, enthralled and eternally grateful to Mr. Macrae.
But did it really happen?
There have been plenty of questions and questioners, suggesting that the moon landings were faked. How, for example, is the flag in the above photo flapping, given there is no atmosphere to flap it? Then, there is the fake photo of astronauts playing golf on the moon. And the lack of stars in moon photos. And the killer radiation that didn’t kill. And the strange links to Stanley Kubrick. And on and on.
Can all this evidence of doctoring be discounted? Did Man really walk on the moon?
The answers, of course, are Yes and Yes.
The idea that the moon landing was faked is completely ridiculous, and it takes a wilful stupidity to believe it. Which includes about 5% of Americans, and 10% of millenials. (The funniest take is that Kubrick did indeed stage the moon landings, but he was such a perfectionist that he went to the moon to do it.)
The important question is why so many people are willing to believe something so patently false? The answer must be some combination of an inability to discern truth with a lack of concern for truth. And why might that be? Well, just perhaps one factor is an extended history of media and government authorities willing to misdirect and to obfuscate and to flat out lie about everything else. Just perhaps people don’t trust authorities because authorities have abused people’s trust for too long. As Taibbi writes:
“… the flowering of conspiracy theories has an obvious correlation, to a collapse of trust in institutions like the news media and the presidency. … It’s simple math. You can only ask the public to swallow so many fictions before they start to invent their own. The moon story is a great illustration.”
Which is a huge problem. It doesn’t matter a damn if people believe moon landing conspiracy crap. But if they believe that crap then they’ll also believe, more easily, climate change conspiracy crap. And then, an authority that has lost authority is powerless to convince them otherwise. And then, we’re doomed.
But at least we can laugh at the dumb slobs while the Earth goes down in flames.
Following the lead of France and Ontario, the Victorian Labor government has decided to ban mobile phones in government classes. One stated reason is to combat cyberbullying, but they’re probably lying. The good and blatantly obvious reason is that smart phones destroy concentration.
Still, any change, no matter how compelling, will have its detractors. There is the idiotic argument that the ban is unenforceable; the claim is almost certainly false, but if true points to such a profound loss of authority that schools may as well just give up entirely. And, there is the argument – one in a stream of tendentious half-truths – that occasionally the internet is down, meaning a lesson can only continue aided by a mobile’s hotspot. The argument is based upon a falsehood but in any case is much worse than wrong; any teacher so addicted to the internet for their teaching may first wish to heal thyself. They may also wish to consider a new profession. Please.
And of course there is discussion of the suggested educational benefits of smart phones, proving only that there is no idea so idiotic that some educational hack cannot be found to support it.
Luckily, it would appear that the Labor government is holding firm, and students will be able to get back to the intended lessons. On their fucking iPads.
Jillian Broadbent, UoW’s chancellor, claimed that the council had “full respect for the university’s academic process”. If only Broadbent had a modicum of respect for the meaning of English words.
Underlying all of this is the question of the meaning of “Western civilisation”. UoW advertises that in Ramsey’s degree a student will:
Learn how to think critically and creatively as you examine topics in ethics, aesthetics, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of religion and political philosophy.”
The irony is palpable. But, at least it makes clear what is meant by “Western civilisation”. It means the power of a business-bloated gang to use Orwellian language while ramming through the selling out of a public institution to rich bigots.
We intend these words, of course, with the fullest of respect.
ABC’S Four Corners has just aired a 2-partprogram on Julian Assange. It is well-made, interesting and, in keeping with modern journalistic style, entirely without self-awareness and entirely off the fucking point.