Stereotypes versus political correctness

My husband and I discussed the concept of stereotypes with the kids.  What we were trying to get through to them is that it’s wrong to take ideas about a group, even if those ideas are complimentary or accurate, and to assume that they apply to an individual.  The mere fact that Jews tend to have higher IQs doesn’t automatically mean that Joe Schmostein is smart.  On the other side of the balance, merely because blondes are the butt of myriad dumb blonde jokes still means it’s a huge mistake to assume that a given blonde is dumb.  (And, Z, because you’re very literal, let me say here that I realize that dumb blonde jokes are just that — jokes — but they’re still a useful rhetorical tool for discussing stereotyping.)

What both my husband and my children had a problem with was that, while it’s wrong to apply stereotypes to individuals, and while it’s wrong to perpetuate lies about an entire group to satisfy ones biases (e.g., those dumb blondes), that doesn’t make it at all invalid to look at group behavior and draw conclusions about the group.  If the numbers show that Chinese people consume more rice more capita than other people (I’m guessing here, but it sounds reasonable), the existence of this data means that this statement isn’t a stereotype, it’s a fact.  That fact’s existence doesn’t mean that any individual Chinese person should be assumed to like rice (ask first before serving), but it does mean that there is an operating truism about the group.

Mr. Bookworm’s confusion about stereotypes versus factual data about a defined group became apparent when the conversation in the car turned to war atrocities (my children are at the ghoulish phase), and my son raised the subject of genital mutilation.  In a previous ghoulish conversation, I’d told him that the Japanese, during the Rape of Nanking, subjected women to genital mutilation as part of their torture and murder.  I then mentioned that Arabs are well-known for castrating their enemies.

My husband was outraged:  “That’s a stereotype!”  “No,” I said, “in terms of the cultural norms of warfare, that’s a fact.  I’m not saying that all Arabs slice off their enemies’ penises.  I’m just saying that it is a typical and traditional Arab approach to war.”  He subsided, unconvinced.

I doubt even this horrific story will cut through his PC, multi-culti world view to convince him:

Devotedly washed and sprinkled with rose petals, Hamza Ali al-Khateeb lies prepared for burial.

But the rituals of death cannot wipe away the horrific injuries that have mutilated his body almost beyond recognition.

Nor do they blot out that Hamza – riddled with bullets, kneecapped and with neck broken and penis hacked off – has the rounded cheeks and gentle face of a child.

[snip]

The teenager’s family were told not to speak of his terrible fate. But in a pitiful act of defiance, they posted the footage of his corpse online.

[snip]

An unseen attendant tenderly shifts the scarred limbs and head so that the viewer can see each injury, including two bullets which were fired through each arm and then entered his chest.

‘Look at the evidence of his torture,’ the narrator urges. ‘Take a look at the bruises on his face and his neck that was broken. Take a look at the bruises on his right legs

‘In addition there is worse. They did not satisfy themselves with all the torturing so they cut off his genitals.’

Savage cultures do savage things, and all the multi-culti pieties in the world won’t erase the fact that the savage Muslim/Arab culture is committed to male genital attacks as a sign of power.

About those Obama popularity polls (and the media’s role)

CNN just released its latest poll, showing climbing support for Obama.  Ed Morrissey is suspicious, since it’s hard to reconcile the low poll numbers on specifics (economy, national security, etc.) with the high numbers for Obama himself.  Suspicions, though, are all Ed’s got, because CNN has withheld demographic data.  This matters a lot because, lately, polls have been oversampling self-identified Democrats, which is going to skew a given poll’s outcome.

I’m actually less surprised than Ed is.  I think it’s entirely possible for the public to hold simultaneously two entirely conflicting ideas.  In this case, those incompatible ideas are “(1) I dislike Obama’s policies and his effectiveness and (2) I think he’s a good president.”  The answer lies in the media.

The facts on the ground say that Obama is either a worse president than Bush (terrible economy; overt hostility to Israel, a country that Americans like; creator of the much-disliked ObamaCare; etc.) or or the same president as Bush (war, war, war).  As to that last — the war, war, war bit — Obama has even overtaken Bush, as he’s presiding over three wars, not just two, one of which happens to be illegal for anyone believing there’s virtue to obliging a president to comply with little ol’ American laws, such as the War Powers Act.

So why do people like Obama?  Because the media tells them to.  The media tells them he’s handsome, charming, brilliant and efficient.  The same media told people Bush was ugly, stupid, and evil.  The media drum beat, whether extolling Obama or excoriating Bush has been relentless.

Here’s a teeny example:  Obama horribly botched his toast to Queen Elizabeth.  Had Bush done that, it would have become a running joke on Jay Leno, not just for days, but for years.  (Leno is still coming back to “Bush is dumb” jokes.)  As it is, Leno hasn’t touched it or, if he did, he did so with such delicacy I missed it entirely.  A public that doesn’t pay much attention to details, primarily because those details are being withheld, isn’t having drummed into it the fact that Obama is inept.

Our minds are complicated things.  We all know that people can cling to biases even as they acknowledge the facts that put the lie to their own prejudices.  One can easily imagine someone saying “I know the economy sucks and that I don’t like Obama’s policies but, I don’t know why, I still like the guy.”  Well, I do know why:  it’s because the guy is being propped up, while the other guy (that would be Bush) was the subject of unrelenting, vicious, overt and covert attacks for eight solid years.

Reflections on Iraq…and Syria

Yes, we won the war in Iraq and, as the inimitable Walter Russell Mead points out, we may have changed the course of history. Sure, it’s still early and there are many events that still have to play themselves out, but Iraq today is a country at relative peace surrounded by dangerous turbulence.

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2011/05/29/memorial-day-the-war-in-iraq/

The remaining question, though, is what happens to the rest of the Middle East? In the name of “human rights”, the U.S. administration attacks Libya, the only Arab regime that had negotiated a working relationship with the U.S post-Iraq, while playing nice with a Syrian regime that slaughters demonstrators does this to children (WARNING: Graphic Description):

http://gatewaypundit.rightnetwork.com/2011/05/syrian-regime-burns-tortures-bloodies-13-year-old-protester-then-kill-him-video/

Meanwhile, talks are underway to give $20 billion in aid borrowed from China to a soon-to-be Muslim Brotherhood-led Egypt, one dedicated to the persecution of its large Christian minority, while all efforts are made to undermine a normal, pluralistic and civilized country’s ability to defend itself.

There may be a larger strategic calculus at work here, but it certainly is hard to discern.

The Council has spoken, 5/27/11 edition

I really agonized over my votes, since there was so much good stuff.  I was therefore extremely honored that my fellow Council members chose my post, although credit really goes to the Life Magazine staff in 1967:

Council Winners

Non-Council Winners

New addictions, old problems

I’m definitely an internet addict, but since I’ve got an addictive personality, I’m not surprised. I’ve never been one for drugs, which are anathema to someone who is as much a self-control freak as I am. My addiction has always run to words. It was no surprise to me that I slid from being an old-fashioned bookworm, who compulsively read cereal boxes if there was nothing else available, to being a new-fashioned internet worm. I need that word fix.

I’m too prolix, though, ever to worry about being tweeted and twittered into completely thoughtlessness. When I die, it will be with a thesaurus in one hand and a dictionary in the other — even if they are in e-book form.

Others, though, are less sanguine about the price they pay for their internet addictions.  Rick, at Brutally Honest, has written a very thoughtful and thought-provoking post about the way in which the speed that information comes at us, and the minimalist way in which we seek to convey our own thoughts through Twitter, is flattening out both our intellectual and spiritual prowess.  Read it and do one of two things:  Never turn on the internet again, if you are so inspired, or come back and tell me what you thought.

Because ObamaCare cares!

Because, we know, people in government really, really care about you, special you, and want to take care of you. Because, just like your cat, they truly, truly love you, no matter what Republicans say.

That’s why it makes sense to have Father Government take care of us, so that we won’t ever have to worry about our medical needs anymore. Never, ever! We simply go to Father Government and ask in order to receive. And why not, every modern country except the United States has a national health-care system, why don’t we? Like the U.K., for example. Why can we have the same? It’s so cruel to deny us this! Why, oh why oh why?
Because, well, er….because:

http://www.heartland.org/healthpolicy-news.org/article/29864/UKs_NHS_Seeks_to_Limit_Care_for_Smokers_Obese.html

Death Panels? Pshaw!

Special hat-tip to QandO.net

Happy Memorial Day!

I hope that you have a lovely Memorial Day in the company of your family and friends.  Spare a moment, though, to think of and thank those who currently serve, and those who gave their all for the freedom we (still) enjoy today.

Wind energy model blows cold

Here is an intriguing article about a dilemma faced by the United Kingdom: its wind power farms are running out of wind. Climate change? The article offers plenty of ideas as to why this may be.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/8545306/Wind-farms-Britain-is-running-out-of-wind.html

The U.K., along with a few other EUropean countries like Denmark and Spain, has banked heavily on wind power as their alternate energy source of choice.

Does anyone else catch the subtext in this article?

 

 

The great Winston Churchill

I came across the following story about Winston Churchill when I was reading The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes:

In the summer of 1941 Sergeant James Allen Ward was awarded the Victoria Cross for climbing out onto the wing of his Wellington bomber, 13,000 feet above the Zuider Zee, to extinguish a fire in the starboard engine.  Secured only by a rope around his waist, he managed not only to smother the fire but also to return along the wing to the aircraft’s cabin.  Churchill, an admirer as well as a performer of swashbuckling exploits, summoned the shy New Zealander to 10 Downing Street.  Ward, struck dumb with awe in Churchill’s presence, was unable to answer the prime minister’s questions.  Churchill surveyed the unhappy hero with some compassion.  “You must feel very humble and awkward in my presence,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” managed Ward.

“Then you can imagine how humble and awkward I feel in yours.”

Now, as a thought exercise, try to imagine any politician today having that kind of grace.

(If you’re curious about Ward, here’s a bit more info about his short and honorable life.)

UPDATE:  Welcome, Ace readers.  I can fairly promise you that neither my writing nor my thinking are as good as Churchill’s.  On the other hand, I’m here now, blogging away, and I offer two things at my blog:  A broad array of fairly well-written posts on a variety of conservative topics and some of the most intelligent commenters in the blogosphere.  Since I know Andrew Breitbart thinks Ace has the best commenters, you might feel very much at home here.  All of which is is to say that I think you should spend a minute looking around and deciding whether you think this is a site worth visiting again.

Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin

I’ve often heard people use the expression “he saw the handwriting on the wall.”  I wonder, though, how many know that it originates in the Book of Daniel, which is a part of the Old Testament.  I’m reasonably sure that most of my readers are familiar with the story of Daniel, but for those who aren’t, here is the briefest summary possible:  Daniel lived in Babylon during the Jewish exile and became a high court official to King Nebuchadnezzar and, after him, to his son Belshazzar.  He was renowned for his ability to interpret dreams and other signs.

The story of “the handwriting on the wall” has it that Belshazzar and his court engaged in blasphemy, defiling sacred Jewish temple vessels.  Suddenly a hand mysteriously appeared before the crowd and wrote upon the palace walls.  Belshazzar summoned Daniel and asked him to read and interpret the writing:

25 “This is the inscription that was written:

MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN [aka Upharsin]

26 “Here is what these words mean:

Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

27 Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

28 Peres [aka Upharsin]: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

That very night, the Persians overran the palace, killing Belshazzar and inaugurating Darius’ reign.

I keep thinking of that phrase “you have been weighed and found wanting,” and I think of it in a very specific context:  liberal institutions, such as the media, Hollywood and universities.  The phrase first floated up in my brain when I had the back-and-forth with Jesse Kornbluth regarding his (to my mind) undeservedly laudatory profile of Andrew Sullivan in Harvard Magazine.  In support of his contention that his research, writing and analysis were solid, and that Andrew Sullivan isn’t a bitter, flaky antisemite, Kornbluth offered his and Sullivan’s academic and mainstream media credentials as proof positive that Sullivan was deserving of the praise he received and that Kornbluth had done his due diligence as a reporter and/or had reasonably interpreted the data he did discover.

What seemed to elude Kornbluth was that those credentials didn’t cause me to strike my forehead and say “Wow!  I guess I don’t need to worry about the factual and logical gaps in the article.  These are both Ivy League men who have made their presence known in the mainstream media.  They must be correct.”  Instead, I kept my eye on Kornbluth’s text and the known facts about Andrew Sullivan, and stuck to my initial conclusion that Kornbluth had been way too generous in his praise.

For conservatives, the liberal establishment — an establishment that nurtured many of us, myself included, during our formative years — has been weighed and found wanting.  We conservatives, for example, no longer assume that, if the news is from the New York Times, or if the reporter works at the New York Times, that means that both the news and the reporter have the imprimatur of honesty and reliability.  We know that the New York Times is now, and has been since at least the 1930s, a reliable arm of the lefter side of the political spectrum — and a fundamentally dishonest one, to boot, since it has always vigorously denied its bias.

In the old days, the Times‘ bias was hidden behind stodgy writing aimed directly at the middle classes.  The bias existed nevertheless, whether the paper was lying about Soviet Russia in the 1930s, swooning about Communist China, arguing against Jewish rescue in the late 1930s and early 1940s, or fomenting anti-War sentiment during the Vietnam era.  Nowadays, of course, under Pinch’s (what’s the opposite of august?) leadership, although still proclaiming itself an “independent” news organ, the Times doesn’t even make the pretense of independent reporting.  Its articles, whether about politics, food or movies, are distinguishable only in tone (slightly more hip and less earnest) from The Nation.

Because of the Times’ bias, a bias it refuses to acknowledge, people interested in factual objectivity (an objectivity that would allow them to draw their own conclusions), have decided that the Times, and other media outlets that have traversed the same Leftward path, whether print or TV, have been weighed and found wanting.

So too have thoughtful Americans weighed Hollywood and found it wanting.  We do not like Castro or Chavez better simply because movie stars cuddle up to them and extoll their supposed virtues.  We do not discount marriage’s importance in society because movie stars overuse it, ignore it or denigrate it.  We do not think that drugs are a viable part of a healthy life even though two-bit pot stars with decorative horns explain on national TV that they are chronic users.  We do not believe that our troops are deranged killers, even though Hollywood movies since the early 1970s have assured us that they are dangerous, amoral, often psychotic men.

Americans have also evaluated the universities, those institutions that once turned out people steeped the cream of Western knowledge, and concluded that they’re not doing their job.  For the $50,000 per year middle class Americans are expected to pay, they get children who attend sex shows, learn how to orchestrate Leftist violence, become increasingly antisemitic and anti-Israel, deconstruct the meaning out of everything, hate the troops, and do drugs.  Most Americans do not like to see the values they so carefully inculcated into their children deliberately destroyed and replaced with Marxist politics and debauched social values.

Those American institutions that have tilted Left cannot understand why more and more Americans do not accept their opinions or their so-called facts at face value.  They do not appreciate that Americans, having examined their own core values and assisted by the unimpeded flow of information through the internet, have weighed these institutions and found them wanting.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land, available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon, Smashwords or through your iBook app.

Slow Saturday

Well, I managed to lose this Saturday entirely. Between trying to catch up on my chronically lost sleep, running a few necessary errands (which included the great, and unexpected, pleasure of running into Charles Martel at our local Staples), and an emergency meeting of one of my volunteer committees, I just seemed to lose the day.

The whole lost day thing wasn’t helped by the fact that I made a visit to Goodwill and got myself some good books. One was a stock romance novel that I gobbled in a couple of hours. The other was the book I am now reading: Harry Stein’s How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace). Although published in 2000, it has a timeless feel. Stein was a neocon before they’d coined the word (or, at least, before it had become a pejorative).

The one thing that really stands out, funnily enough, is this review on the back cover:

With a smart aleck’s nerve and a prophet’s boldness, Harry Stein has written a wickedly funny and moral book.

The source of this glowing review? The New York Times. In a post-George Bush era, can you imagine the Times praising a book by an apostate? I can’t. It will be interesting to see what reception the Times gives David Mamet’s new book.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings in terms of my energy, organization and blogging creativity, so consider this an open thread for the time begin.

How does the military feel about Obama now?

Do you remember this video contrasting the Marines’ response to Bush and to Obama?

The video came out very early in Obama’s presidency, when he was a relatively unknown quantity with regard to the military.  Now that he’s been in office for more than two years, do you think the video is still valid, or has the military warmed up to him?

In Barney Frank’s defense

Barney Frank is one of the least savory figures in government.  I disagree strongly with his politics and his ethics hover somewhere around the zero level.  Michelle Malkin details his habit of giving his friends nice gifts at taxpayer expense.  But here’s what I want to say in his defense, at least when it comes to his boyfriends:  he’s such a monumentally unlikeable person, arrogant and physically unattractive, how else is he going to entice someone into his bed?

Oily memes repeat, repeat, repeat!

One lesson of advertising is that, no matter whether true or false, to make a message stick, one must repeat, repeat, repeat. This is how false messages become enshrined into the ideological orthodoxy of the Left and ripple out to the collective consciousness of the masses.

Now, there are many ways to deliberately distort a message. One commonly used tactic is to deliberate omit information that provides necessary context. Thus, the message may be true as it stands, but it misleads by what it does not say.

Here is an article that simultaneously illustrates how the Left establishes talking points for wide dissemination based on distorted information, while demolishing one particular such talking point that was found to reverberate repeatedly on this blog: the claim that the United States uses 25% of all world oil production but contains only 2% of the world’s oil reserves.

Yes, the U.S. has only 2% of the world’s “proven reserves”. However, as defined, “proven reserves” represents only a very small fraction to total reserves. When total reserves are factored in, U.S. petroleum holdings are likely to rival Saudi Arabia’s. Read it all – it really is very clearly presented

http://spectator.org/archives/2011/05/27/energy-myths-of-the-left

The article then goes on to demolish the argument that the U.S. uses a disproportionate amount of the world’s oil production.

Observe, however: the usual response of the Left when confronted with information that proves anathema to developed orthodoxy is to personally attack the source (shades of Galileo!) rather than distort the information (a classic Alinsky tactic). Orthodoxy  must be protected at all costs!

And, rightly so. For once these tactics are exposed for what they are, the credibility of the Left is forever put into question and people go elsewhere for their information.

Whenever any information emanates from the Left, it should be viewed with great caution. Left-wing memes are like highly damaging computer viruses: easy to create and very laborious to detect and remove. Caveat emptor.

I’m the Navy SEAL in the house

My son has a small infection in his toe. It definitely hurts, but it’s not the end of the world.

This afternoon, when he was out in the backyard with his friends, I came out and announced that it was time for him to go to martial arts.

“No,” he said. “My toe hurts.”

“That’s no excuse,” I responded. “I’ve done martial arts with broken toes.”

To which he riposted with this one: “Well, you’re the Navy SEAL in the family. I’m not.”

At which point I heard one of his friends, completely bewildered, say “I didn’t know your Mom was a SEAL.”

And so rumors are born.

How to fight a battle

As I mentioned in an earlier post, in preparation for the Midway Commemoration next Saturday, I’m reading Gordon Prange’s Miracle at Midway. After describing the hubris that afflicted the Japanese command six months after Pearl Harbor, Prange has this to say about the American commmanders as they prepared for the fateful conflict, at a time when victory was far from assured:

In this meeting, no one expressed heady euphoria, fatuous optimism, or smug over-confidence. No one manipulated awkward facts to fit preconceived notions or fond hopes. On the other hand, these men displayed no dank despair, no bleak pessimism, no enervating self-pity, no melodramatics of dying for flag and country. (P. 102.

Those are good words to remember going into 2012.

This week’s Watcher’s Council stuff is, as always, excellent

I’ve enjoyed reading these submissions, and I bet you will too:

Council Submissions

Honorable Mentions

Non-Council Submissions

The rhetorical clarity of moral clarity

If you haven’t listened to Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, you must.  And I mean listen.  I’m usually a speech reader, because I read quickly, and seldom have the time or the patience to sit down and listen to someone give a 45 minute speech.

In addition, some speakers have so many rhetorical tics and twitches that I find myself unable to focus on the speech’s content.  For example, Obama, when speaking on teleprompter, has a wooden delivery; is artificially rhythmic, as his head swings back and forth from left teleprompter to right; and he tightens his sphincter at the end of most words, which gives his voice a peculiarly hectoring quality.  Off teleprompter, in addition to that sphincter tightening, he’s an “uh-er,” with the sound “uh” punctuating his speech at frequent intervals.

Netanyahu’s speech, however, was a delight.  His affect was utterly relaxed; his words flowed with unimpeded fluency; his timing was perfect; and his emotional pitch varied appropriately and subtly, ranging from passion, to relaxed conversation, to humor.

The speech’s content matched the delivery.  It was pitch perfect:  Netanyahu flowed effortlessly from one subject to another, never loosing sight of his themes:  American and Jewish/Israeli exceptionalism, the tyranny Muslim Middle Eastern dictators impose on their hapless subjects, and the need for a true peace that involves Arab/Muslim acceptance of Israel’s right to exist.  It was a speech that was fully deserving of the applause and ovations Congress accorded it.

The brilliance of Netanyahu’s speech wasn’t just because he’s a bright man, who’s a seasoned orator, who is (or has) a good speech writer, and who believed what he was saying.  The speech also worked because moral clarity is the underpinning of all good rhetoric.

It’s no coincidence that the best writers on the Supreme Court are conservatives (Roberts and Scalia), while the worst writers are, and have been, liberals (Ginsburg, Stevens, Souter).  Liberals spend an inordinate amount of time trying to pretend that disparate ideas, false logic, unworkable syllogisms, bad law, and twisted facts can come together in a smooth, constitutionally whole fabric.

The conservative justices, however, since they begin each decision with the Constitution (itself a simply written document) as their guide, are easily able to bring facts and law together under that already logical umbrella.  They therefore repeatedly publish decisions that are well-written, comprehensible, and easy to sell to ordinary Americans, without translation through the Berkeley linguistic filter.

What applies to judicial opinions also holds true for political speeches.  The contrast between Netanyahu’s Middle East speech and Obama’s is compelling.  Obama’s speech was the usual platitudinous muddle, with rhetorical fluff about sacrifices and freedom sprinkled throughout the speech in an effort to obscure the speech’s real goal:  to reduce Israel to its manifestly indefensible pre-Six Day War borders.

Obama, naively, hoped that no one would notice.  When they did, he spent the next several days trying to walk his speech back, explaining to all and sundry that he meant what he said, but that they didn’t understand it; or that he didn’t mean exactly what he said; or that ill-wishers (racists all, I’m sure) were misinterpreting what he said.

This wasn’t the first time that Obama — the so-called “Great Communicator” — has found himself stuck in this kind of rhetorical quagmire.  Nor should it be a surprise that this happens to him so often.  As with the liberal Supreme Court justices, Obama’s speeches, which are all intended to achieve goals that most Americans find distasteful, are always a complicated amalgam of false and true facts, unworkable syllogisms, meaningless platitudes, illogical conclusions, all intended to hide the little content and time bombs buried within.

What made Obama’s latest speech stand out was that, for the first time, the world had the opportunity to contrast it with someone else’s speech on the same subject.  Netanyahu didn’t have to rely upon rhetorical misdirection and other tricks to make his point.  Because his speech had a starting point of moral clarity — nations that are built upon Judeo/Christian principles and individual freedom are the best — everything he said flowed without rhetorical tricks, traps, or lies.

In other words, the best way to give a good speech (and, if you’re brilliant) a great speech, is to speak the truth.  That’s what Netanyahu did, and that’s what Obama was and is incapable of doing.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land, available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon, Smashwords or through your iBook app.