BRIEFLY NOTED: For 2021-01-31 Su
What I have been reading that has arrested me, and made me think. This may be one use I make of my substack as I try to figure out what this platform is useful for. Let me start with things that wh...
…izzed by, and follow with some long-paragraph chunks that I think are very worth reading,
It is curious that—so far at least—this from the extremely sharp McKay Coppins has turned out to be wrong: McKay Coppins: ‘People who spent years coddling the president will recast themselves as voices of conscience, or whitewash their relationship with Trump… LINK: <https://uphill.thedispatch.com/p/biden-cabinet-inauguration-gop-future>
The Republicans are all doubling down on Trump, even though he is now out of office, and off of Twitter. He has all but disappeared from the general public sphere. Is he still ruling the fever swamps? And do the Republicans not recognize that there is anything else?
Plus Two Videos Well Worth Watching:
Roosevelt & Churchill: Christmas, 1941
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Governor Schwarzenegger’s Message Following This Week’s Attack on the Capitol
Very Briefly Noted:
Joshua Gans: B.1.1.7: ‘B.1.1.7 has an advantage… when the mitigation strategies are in place… [in] getting around them.... The fight against B.1.1.7 requires the places that have been the most vigilant need more action. It is hard to know what that is… LINK: <https://joshuagans.substack.com/p/b117>
Nora Caplan-Bricker: An Overlooked Novel from 1935 by the Godmother of Feminist Detective Fiction: ‘A new group biography establishes Dorothy L. Sayers’s “Gaudy Night” as a forerunner of works by Gillian Flynn and Tana French… LINK: <https://www.newyorker.com/books/under-review/an-overlooked-novel-from-1935-by-the-godmother-of-feminist-detective-fiction>
Annalee Newitz: What Ancient Roman Hospitality Workers Can Teach Us About This Moment in History <https://thehypothesis.substack.com/p/what-ancient-roman-hospitality-workers…
Ben Sasse: ‘Many party leaders and consultants thought they could preach the Constitution while winking at QAnon. They can’t. The GOP must reject conspiracy theories or be consumed by them. Now is the time to decide what this party is about… LINK: <https://uphill.thedispatch.com/p/biden-cabinet-inauguration-gop-future>
Acropolis Museum: Digital Museum: ‘The Acropolis Museum enters dynamically into the world of digital technology and opens new channels of communication with the public… LINK: <https://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en/digital-museum>
Seven Paragraphs-Plus for Dinnertime:
Anna Akhmatova: From ‘Requiem’ : ‘During the years of the Yezhovschina, I spent seventeen months standing outside the prison in Leningrad, waiting for news. One day someone recognized me. Then a woman with lips blue from the cold, who was standing behind me, and of course had never heard of my name, came out of the numbness which affected us all. She whispered in my ear (for we all spoke in whispers there): “Can you describe this?” I said, “I can.” Then something resembling a smile slipped over what had once been her face… LINK
Ken Untener: Prophets of a Future Not Our Own : ‘It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the Church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own. LINK
Rosa Luxemburg: The Russian Revolution: ‘The socialist system of society should only be, and can only be, an historical product, born out of the school of its own experiences, born in the course of its realization, as a result of the developments of living history…. Socialism by its very nature cannot be decreed or introduced by ukase…. The negative, the tearing down, can be decreed; the building up, the positive, cannot. New Territory. A thousand problems. Only experience is capable of correcting and opening new ways. Only unobstructed, effervescing life falls into a thousand new forms and improvisations, brings to light creative new force, itself corrects all mistaken attempts.
The public life of countries with limited freedom is so poverty-stricken, so miserable, so rigid, so unfruitful, precisely because, through the exclusion of democracy, it cuts off the living sources of all spiritual riches and progress…. Otherwise, socialism will be decreed from behind a few official desks by a dozen intellectuals…. Life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously–at bottom, then, a clique affair–a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins (the postponement of the Soviet Congress from three-month periods to six-month periods!)
Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc… LINK: <https://www.marxists.org/archive/luxemburg/1918/russian-revolution/ch06.htm>
Noah Smith: Short Thoughts on the Insurrection: ‘I think Republicans who still support the insurrectionists—or who are still on the fence—are motivated not by hate but by fear. To understand the mind of American conservatives, you have to understand the constant diet of fear that they consume every day. For decades, right-wing talk shows and Fox News have understood that they could get conservatives to tune in by constantly pumping up the fear—fear of a War on Christmas, fear of gay culture, fear of terrorism, fear of Black crime, fear fear fear. During the Trump Era, the chief bugaboos have been A) wokeness, B) immigration, and C) antifa. To be a conservative in America is to exist in a constant state of having people trying to scare you.
Now, in the era of Trumpist insurrection, the chief threat that the fearmongers are hawking is that Republicans and conservatives will become a persecuted class in America….. Some Republicans will see this threatening warning and think “Ehh, that’s hysteria; let’s focus on the real threat of insurrection and then things will be back to normal.” But some will think “OMG it’s true…. I’m going to be hunted and persecuted in my own country just because I’m a conservative…. Who can protect me from this terror?” And for many, the only possible answer to the question of “Who can protect me from this terror?” will be “Trump, and the people who stormed the Capitol”. Having been told that the institutions of America are an existential threat to them, they will cling to the only force they feel might be capable of protecting them….
All the insurrectionists have to do to retain Republican support is to keep pumping up the threat, and keep presenting themselves as the only port in the storm. And some Republicans, tragically, will cling ever tighter to the very monster that is at their throats… LINK <https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/insurrection-thoughts-113>
Tom Snyder: The American Abyss: ‘When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with the wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place. Without agreement about some basic facts, citizens cannot form the civil society that would allow them to defend themselves. If we lose the institutions that produce facts that are pertinent to us, then we tend to wallow in attractive abstractions and fictions. Truth defends itself particularly poorly when there is not very much of it around.... Social media... supercharges the mental habits by which we seek emotional stimulation and comfort, which means losing the distinction between what feels true and what actually is true… LINK: <https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/09/magazine/trump-coup.html>
Haley Bird Wilt: The Consequences of Lying to People: ‘Republican lawmakers misled millions of people into believing the results of a legitimate election could be overturned. Many of them viewed contesting the outcome as a relatively easy way to gain political currency among Trump supporters, knowing all the while that their efforts would have no real impact on who will be sworn into office in two weeks. The deception—primarily led by Trump, yet enabled by members of Congress—set the stage for the violence that unfolded at the Capitol Wednesday. Four people died....
The normally dry procedural affair of counting of the Electoral College votes was viewed by everyday Republicans and zealots alike as the place to make a final stand to overturn the election—even though elected Republicans knew the outcome would ultimately remain unchanged. As my colleague Jonah writes this morning, “Convincing people they need to prevent a coup when no such coup exists is a recipe for violence.” This was the energy that fueled the horde on Wednesday… LINK: <https://uphill.thedispatch.com/p/the-consequences-of-lying-to-people>
Scott Alexander: Still Alive: ‘513,000 people read my blog post complaining about the New York Times’ attempt to dox me (for comparison…. So many people cancelled their subscription that the Times’ exasperated customer service agents started pre-empting callers with “Is this about that blog thing?”… I got emails from no fewer than four New York Times journalists expressing sympathy and offering to explain their paper’s standards in case that helped my cause. All four of them gave totally different explanations, disagreeing about whether the reporter I dealt with was just following the rules, was flagrantly violating the rules, was unaffected by any rules, or what. Seems like a fun place to work. I was nevertheless humbled by their support….
Someone who knows New York Times reporters says the guy on my case was their non-hit-piece guy; they have a different reporter for hatchet jobs. After I torched the blog in protest, they seem to have briefly flirted with turning it into a hit piece, and the following week they switched to interviewing everyone who hated me and asking a lot of leading questions about potentially bad things I did….
I think the New York Times wanted to write a fairly boring article about me, but some guideline said they had to reveal subjects’ real identities, if they knew them, unless the subject was in one of a few predefined sympathetic categories (eg sex workers). I did get to talk to a few sympathetic people from the Times, who were pretty confused about whether such a guideline existed, and certainly it’s honored more in the breach than in the observance (eg Virgil Texas)….
I had a phobia of being doxxed. But psychotherapy classes also teach you to not to let past traumas control your life even after they’ve stopped being relevant. Was I getting too worked up over an issue that no longer mattered? The New York Times thought so. Some people kept me abreast of their private discussions (in Soviet America, newspaper’s discussions get leaked to you!) and their reporters had spirited internal debates about whether I really needed anonymity. Sure, I’d gotten some death threats, but everyone gets death threats…. Sure, I might get SWATted, but realistically that’s a really scary fifteen seconds before the cops apologize and go away. Sure, my job was at risk, but I was a well-off person and could probably get another….
In the New York Times’ worldview, they start with the right to dox me, and I had to earn the right to remain anonymous by proving I’m the perfect sympathetic victim who satisfies all their criteria of victimhood…. I don’t think anyone at the Times bore me ill will, at least not originally. But somehow that just made it even more infuriating…