keen social insight via photography, part 2

I updated my post on Crooked Timber's "Trump's America" photo, after the photographer, a political science prof at a major US university, offered some clever sophistry at my expense :( in support of sliming the opposition (a tactic that didn't work so well in the 2016 election). This is still a live issue, since the unapologetic Clinton appears likely to run again.

In the comment thread responding to the photo, several people rehashed her "deplorables" remark...

We are living in a volatile political environment [Clinton said]. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.

...and debated how broad a segment of the American public she was denouncing. Was it half of Trump supporters? Half of Trump voters? Or did she just mean the Breitbart readers?

Commenter Heliopause says (comment 91):

This thread has gone a strange direction, hasn’t it? “Precisely how many people are in Clinton’s ‘Basket of Deplorables?’ Nate Silver will be joining us next…”

Look, people, smart politicians generally avoid statements of this kind because they have a rudimentary understanding of human nature. If you go to Cleveland to give a speech and say, “some of the people here are stupid,” a not insubstantial proportion of your audience hears, “he just said we’re stupid.” Next day the local paper headline is, “Speaker Calls Clevelanders ‘Stupid'”, and away we go.

When Trump made his infamous remark about rapists he of course did not say, “all Mexicans are rapists,” though that’s what most people heard. What he actually said was bizarre and racist enough; essentially that there was some sort of coordinated effort to send criminals, whatever their relative proportion of the population might be, to the U.S. But that’s not what got heard and reported around the world.

So I don’t see how it matters how many Deplorables Clinton really thinks exist, she was stupid to have said this within earshot of anyone who might have reported it out.

Update: The word "unapologetic" was substituted after publication for a harsher word.

"2000s figures" stumbling in the age of you-know-who

Comments on Naked Capitalism:

July 20, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Trump’s Budget Shows How He Is Building a Police State
Trump is aiming to turn the federal government into a much more militaristic and paramilitary policing organization.
[link to David Cay Johnson story]

Lambert Strether
July 20, 2017 at 3:10 pm

There aren’t a lot of specific domestic programs mentioned in the post, which is what I expected (since a “police state” is by definition directed at the citizens of that state). One tendency liberal Democrats have is to point to some bad (undeniably bad) thing Trump is doing, while ignoring how Obama (and the now rehabilitated George W. Bush) either did the same thing or created the conditions for what Trump is doing. It’s like they built the car, assumed they’d always have the keys, and then scream because they don’t like the direction Trump is driving it). Uncharacteristic lack of focus by Johnston.

Tom Moody
July 20, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Yes, many blogs I read complain about [ongoing political evil] and stick “in the age of Trump” into the headline. Juan Cole is especially bad at this.

Swamp Yankee
July 20, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Agreed on Cole, Tom. He has not been at his best lately; Trump seems very difficult for him to get his head around. In general I’d say he is far more perceptive about the Middle East than America (I think this is related to his having been raised in large part as an American abroad). In general, I think figures from the 2000s like Cole’s time, in the sense of when they were most influential and insightful and central to world-historical events, has passed (see also Colbert, Stephen, Stewart, Jon, etc). The focus is back on the US, and off the Middle East.

I say all this with great admiration for Cole, I actually know him in real life and found him to be a very decent sort.

Tom Moody
July 22, 2017 at 7:07 am

I still read him for the Middle East coverage. Unfortunately every other headline is something like today’s “How our Intel Agencies Screwed us by Letting Sessions, Trumpies get away with Russia Scheme.” Immediately after the election Cole was skeptical of any “scheme.” Now he’s fully on board with the Clinton talking points.

Tom Moody
July 22, 2017 at 7:32 am

OK, I deleted his feed from my RSS reader — will scan his front page occasionally for Mideast analysis. I also had to delete Corrente a while back (sorry Lambert). They had a *daily* series going called “Trump therapy” which was like agony to read if you believe Clinton is no better. I made a skeptical comment which never left moderation, then deleted the RSS. Joe Conason’s blog remains in the queue for its reading of the current Clintonite thinking and because he posts infrequently. Swamp Yankee, you are right about those “figures from the 2000s.” Many of them seem out of touch with the reasons for popular anger.

keen social insight via photography

I can't say I haven't posted photos of overweight Americans in airports -- but I didn't caption them "Bush's America." My ill-advised snapshots from 2003-4 would have done nothing to stop Bush's reelection, anyway, and insulting voters turns out not to be a winning strategy, as we just saw. I'd like to think I've had some growth since fledgling blogger days, unlike Crooked Timber:


Will let you know if that comment passes moderation but I don't expect it to.

Update: Henry says the point of the photo is that one of the Trump Americans is wearing a neo-Nazi website T-shirt. Therefore, one supposes, it's OK to generalize about everyone else in the pic, because they are tolerating his presence. We must be eternally vigilant, etc. My comment was posted -- apparently Henry has dual comment threads depending on whether you click the photo or the blog title, very confusing.

Update 2: Henry says the dual comment threads are a Word Press glitch.

Update 3: Rationales for the photo changed a few times in yesterday's thread. For some, the T-shirt reference was clear. Some missed it. One commenter noted it was supposed to be a trick, as advertised by the website: "You will get a rush secretly wearing a Nazi t-shirt in public without having to suffer the consequences." I was trying to keep up with some of this and changed my update above a few times, trying to stay accurate even though I still hated the generalization "Trump's America." Henry noted a few of these changes and described them with trainspotter detail to discredit my criticism as some sort of fuzzy logic. Weak, but that's what he went with.
However, this comment was allowed to pass without paragraphs of exegesis about the "model of argumentation":

Donald Johnson 07.23.17 at 5:22 pm

The problem for me is that the title Trump’s America gave me the impression you were condemning all those people– initially I didn’t even see the Nazi T shirt and wondered what the heck you were doing. Then I thought you were condemning all those people for tolerating or being friends with a guy wearing a Nazi T shirt, which would only be fair if they knew what it was. It turns out you only meant to condemn the actual wearer (and presumably any friends in the photo who don’t mind his choice of attire).

I think it was a confusing post.

Update, July 25: Am still mulling over Henry's sophistry (he teaches political science at a major university and presumably is applying professional jiu- jitsu here):

You got your initial condemnation wrong, which is fine – it happens. But then, you replaced the condemnation with a grumpy statement to the effect that I was now in the game of condemning people for controversial t-shirts, which you then deleted, and have now replaced with yet a third unrelated complaint about how I am supposedly slurring the bystanders for their toleration. As far as I can see, the only common thread in your argument is that I am wrong (for three successive, but completely different reasons) and that you are completely right in your initial decision to be critical of me. I recommend Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber’s fantastic new book, The Enigma of Reason for a detailed discussion of what lies behind this model of argumentation (see especially the final chapters) – while, as they argue it can be harnessed for useful purposes at the collective level, it can also look a bit ungainly at the individual (consider this intervention the kind of social correction that Mercier and Sperber call for, and an invitation to reconsider your style of arguing and reasoning).

My "initial condemnation" (not deleted -- it's still at the top of the page) had a couple of elements: posting photos of random overweight people and sneering at the opposition as some kind of unwashed Other. Henry seems to think that once he informed me of the "gotcha" (one of the people in the photo is wearing a Nazi shirt) I should approve the photo and caption and back off. Did the "gotcha" change my feelings about his tactics, or that picture? Not really. I wrote the Update to acknowledge the "gotcha" and struggled a bit finding the right tone to convey that I still hated the photo and its premise. My error was live editing a blog update with such a fanatic self-justifier lurking around. He builds a case that these edits (done over a few hours but eventually gelling as the first Update above) were a flawed "model of argumentation," and then does some more sneering.

When I called out Henry for stalking my live edits, here's how he responded:

You first accused me of classist attacks on overweight people. Then, when I pointed out that this was wrong, you proposed in succession a variety of other attacks, which all seemed to me to be efforts to shore up your original position that there was something odious about the post, without ever quite managing to settle on a precise claim as to what that odious quality was. Obviously, this is a storm in a teacup, and none of us are at our best in comments threads, but I don’t think that your claim is correct. If you object to me pointing out the inconsistencies as “minutely tracking the revisions” (not actually so – I just happened to open up the page last night, and not finding the tab easily again this morning, opened it up again to find an entirely different claim as to why I was in the wrong), then I suppose, feel free to continue as you were.

He seems incapable of understanding that someone could hate his "Trump's America" photo regardless of the "gotcha" reveal of the Nazi T-shirt wearer. There were a few others on the thread who were troubled by the photo -- its tone, but also privacy and guilt-by-association issues -- yet escaped all this clever pushback.

lazy YT-jaying: "Firecracker"

Didn't realize "Firecracker," on the first Yellow Magic Orchestra LP, was a Martin Denny cover: [YouTube]

According to Discogs, YMO started as a one-off concept project of Haruomi Hosono's, interpreting Western oriental exotica, which then caught on as a band.
Riuichi Sakamoto and Yukohiro Takahashi originally came in as session musicians.
The Denny piece anticipates David Byrne's Japanese-sounding themes for The Last Emperor, which Sakamoto also wrote music for, so there's some kind of cultural loop thing going on here.