In Case You Missed My Previous Brilliance…

RecycleI’ve been wondering how to go about recycling some of my articles. This isn’t a question of reducing my work load. It’s just that I look back and see some stuff that I’ve written that I think is rather good. That’s especially true when I’m in contemplative moods. I was especially struck by an article I wrote a couple of years back, The Beauty of Abandonment and Decay. Back two years ago, I probably had a tenth of the traffic that I have today. But unfortunately, a blog is not really like an art museum. Or rather it is like an art museum where everything more than three days old is stored in the basement.

Elizabeth has done a great service by going through old articles and commenting on them. I’m not sure how many people are aware of the list on the right of the 20 most recent comments. That used to be a great tool for me, until I figured out that I could read and respond to comments within the WordPress admin area. But it still works as a nice feature for Frankly Curious readers. Or it mostly does. Now there is enough commenting that 20 entries really isn’t enough. I think I’m going to create a comment page for this. There will be a link to it at the link bar at the top of each page.

Still, it would be nice to bring back old articles in a convenient way. There is one thing that I can do that is easy. I can “pin” an old article to the top of the front page. The problem is that it isn’t in the flow of the articles. It just stays there for as long as it is pinned. So I thought I might do that for random posts for the nighttime hours. But this would require that I manually un-pin the post for the start of the next day. And I’m a hard working guy, but I am not up at 5:05 am when the first article is published.

There is another approach to this, which is to simply change the time stamp of an old article. But that screws up the whole idea of a blog. I want to highlight an old article, not pretend that it is a new article. You see, these are the kinds of things that I worry about. I am very much a formalist — but a liberal one. If you read my writing about grammar, you will see that I want to create the simplest rules possible and then stick with them. A good example is my article, The Case Against Apostrophe S. Yes, it may make more sense to write, “Thomas’s train.” But it is easier if we all just decide to write it, “Thomas’ train.” That way we never have to think about whether we need to add another “s” after an apostrophe.

So I want to get this right. And I think I’ve figured out how to do it. I can write a special post that will always be pinned to the top of the front page. And it will provide a link to an old article that I think is worth checking out. I just have to figure out how to make it look appealing. The main thing is that I can leave up a particular article for a few days. But it should take up a small enough space so that it doesn’t get in the way of people seeing what new gem I’ve written.

We’ll see how it goes. If you all hate it, let me know in the comments for it.

How Ben Carson Is Even More Racist Than Other GOP Candidates

Ben CarsonI have a particular position on Ben Carson and his appeal in the Republican Party. I’ve had it for a long time — long before he became a front runner. It is all about racism, but not in the way you might think. Everyone is racist to one extent or another. As a species, we are programmed to be afraid of other tribes. And that is really what racism is at its base. So very few people are racists in the way that the people in Mississippi Burning were racists. Very few people think of themselves as racist. Yet their subconscious outs them.

Consider me. I don’t think of myself as a racist. Yet when I took an Implicit Association Test for subconscious bias, my result was, “Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for European American compared to African American.” This is not surprising. I’ve lived in a deeply racist society my entire life. I’ve watched the television news where black men are over represented as criminal suspects. I’ve known almost no African Americans in my life and I have no African American friends. It is not surprising that I have an instinctual preference for white people. But knowing this, I try really hard to fight these lower brain impulses with my higher brain.

What bothers me is that I hear people claim that they are not racists. They treat everyone the same. This is especially true of conservatives. Yet when they take the test, they usually deny that it says anything about them. And that brings us to Ben Carson. He flatters conservatives. They know that they aren’t racists. If only African Americans would act more “white” then there wouldn’t be a problem. This is a common belief that racism is about skin color and not what it actually is: a particular group that skin color is used as a signifier.

So Ben Carson goes before our conservative friends and says, “You aren’t racist, because you like me!” But they wouldn’t like Carson if he didn’t tell them that they are just fine. They aren’t doing well because they are white and they have had a huge cultural and monetary advantage that depends up hundreds of years of slavery and then Jim Crow and then redlining. So Ben Carson doubles their pleasure. First, conservatives are voting for a black man, which must mean they aren’t racists. Second, he denies that they are racists by claiming there are very good (non-racist) reasons for wanting to screw poor and middle class African Americans.

Brian Beutler wrote an interesting article along these lines, The Superficiality of the Republican Commitment to Racial Justice. It’s mostly about tokenism. Republicans think that they don’t have a racism problem between, hey, they have African American candidates! But I was especially struck by what he had to say about Carson:

That Carson is black and popular among Republican primary voters is incontrovertible. It’s also largely beside the point. The question of why Carson is popular on the right is complicated, and surely in part related to his aforementioned conservative politics, his religious devotion, and his hypnotically avuncular demeanor. But it is just as surely related to the fact that Carson absolves conservatives of their coarse and patronizing view of black voters and political leaders. Carson attributes his unpopularity with liberals to the notion that he had the temerity to “come off the plantation.”

Needless to say, the fact that Republican voters like a guy who tells them that other black people — the ones who support Democrats — are like plantation slaves doesn’t harm the liberal critique of conservative racial politics at all. Nor does it cancel out or refute the existence of racism.

So yes: Ben Carson is also a racist and would undoubtedly score the same on the Implicit Association Test as I did. But even more than that, the fact that he is black allows him to pander to the racism of Republican voters even more than the white politicians. That’s a nifty trick.

Morning Music: This Land Is Your Land

Woody GuthrieThis week’s songs from grammar school have turned out to be better than I had expected. And we are going to end by listening to perhaps the best: “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie.

He wrote the song in response to “God Bless America” by Irving Berlin. Guthrie apparently considered the song complacent. I’ve always found it somewhat nationalistic, although it does have the line “guide her” — something most Americans would think unnecessary. “This Land Is Your Land” is an obvious liberal anthem because it is aspirational.

But one verse of the song is generally removed, which makes it much more political. The original sixth verse is:

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
This land was made for you and me.

We didn’t sing that verse in public school.

Anniversary Post: Republican Elephant

Republican ElephantOn this day in 1874, Thomas Nast created the first major representation of the Republican Party as a elephant. He is also remembered for popularizing the donkey as the symbol of the Democratic Party. So if you’ve ever wondered about the use of these curious animals as the symbols of our two big political parties, you can blame or credit Nast.

Thomas Nast was a really important political cartoonist of the second half of the 19th century. And his work is really good. This is no doubt thanks to the improved ability of newspapers to render graphics. I’m still amazed that people of that period got anything done. In general, the work was done on blocks of wood. It was then engraved and printed based upon that. And I think PhotoShop is hard.