The Vibes They Are A-Shiftin'
Bye, Chesa! Bye, Felicia! And much of the ideology they represent?
Culture is upstream of politics; and the culture is clearly changing.
We’re now two years out from what may in retrospect be seen as peak “social justice.” In the summer of 2020, a hefty section of the elite was enthralled with the idea of the police being defunded, demobilized and demonized. Critical theory’s critique of liberal democracy as a mere mask for “white supremacy” everywhere. Countless people were required to read woke tracts — from DiAngelo to Kendi — as part of their employment. Corporate America jumped in, shedding any pretense of political neutrality; mainstream media swiftly adopted the new language and premises of critical theory. The Trump madness, and his attempted sabotage of an election, largely silenced liberals in their clash with the left. They had a more immediate threat. And rightly so.
But now look where we are.
Last year, Eric Adams became mayor of New York City, propelled by minority voters horrified by surging crime and chaos. This past week, DA Chesa Boudin, scion of leftwing terrorists, was ousted by minority voters in San Francisco, after he allowed much of the city to become a chaotic hellhole in pursuit of “racial justice.”
Recent polling suggests a sea-change in attitudes. Pew found that only three percent of African-Americans put “racism/diversity/culture” as the most important issue to them while 17 percent cited “violence/crime,” and 11 percent said “economic issues.” (Among Democrats overall, “49% now view racism as a major problem, down from 67% about a year ago.”) New York City voters now put “crime” ahead of “racial inequality” as their most urgent concern by a huge ratio of 12:1. Polling in San Francisco found that 67 percent of Asian-Americans wanted Boudin gone — a sign that the Democrats’ ascendant coalition of non-whites is now fast-descendant.
Hispanics also appear to be fleeing the left. In the usually Dem-friendly Quinnipiac poll last month, “48% of Hispanic registered voters said they wanted Republicans to take control of the House of Representatives, while just 34% said they wanted Democrats in power. In addition, 49% of Hispanic voters said they wanted the GOP to win the Senate, while 36% said they wanted Democrats to remain in control of the chamber.” Biden’s approval among Hispanics is now 24 percent. I’m not sure what to make of this, but even if it’s half true, it’s an electoral emergency for Democrats.
Some Dem pols have noticed the vast cultural gap between most Latino voters and wealthy white leftists, and adjusted. Democratic Congressman Ritchie Torres last week criticized the use of the absurd term “Latinx” — because denying the sex binary is not exactly integral to a culture where the language itself is divided into masculine and feminine. AOC, of course, demurs.
Elite imposition of the new social justice religion — indoctrinating children in the precepts and premises of critical race and gender theory — has also met ferocious backlash as parents began to absorb what their kids were being taught: that America is a uniquely evil country based forever on white supremacy; that your race is the most important thing about you; that biological sex must be replaced by socially constructed genders of near-infinite number; and that all this needs to be taught in kindergarten. Yes, some of this was politically exploited or hyped by the right. But if you think there is no there there in this concern about schooling, you’re dreaming.
Across the country, school boards are thereby in turmoil, with those supporting less ideological education on the march. On the question of trans rights, there is broad support for inclusion — but most Americans are understandably uncomfortable with pre-pubescent kids having irreversible sex changes, and with trans women competing with women in sports. For which those normies are called “hateful.”
And many people have now experienced firsthand what happens to a workplace when crusades for “social justice” trump every other value. The Washington Post this week was convulsed by public infighting — initiated by a reporter, Felicia Sonmez, whose crusade to dismantle the “oppressive systems” she endures at the WaPo went on for a week of public name-calling, vitriol, and victim-mongering. As a professed victim of sexism, Sonmez felt fully justified in destroying any shred of civility or decorum — because she assumed she couldn’t be punished. The same applies to the unethical journalism of Taylor Lorenz, another social justice warrior at the WaPo.
And yet even in this wokest of woke newspapers, the editor finally had enough. Sonmez was fired yesterday for “misconduct that includes insubordination, maligning your co-workers online and violating The Post’s standards on workplace collegiality and inclusivity.” Today, Erik Wemple casts a skeptical eye at the countless corrections required to sustain the career of Lorenz. That strikes me as another vibe shift. Not so long ago, a brilliant young editor, Bari Weiss, was forced out of the NYT by a relentless campaign of bullying, Twitter-mobbing and Slack vileness. Now, a purveyor of exactly those kinds of tactics is the one who had to go.
Two more signs of progress at the WaPo: a Laura Meckler piece this week on the pushback against CRT indoctrination in high schools, which includes this new formulation: CRT is “not taught in K-12 classrooms, though the underlying ideas are part of lessons and policies in many places.” Thank you. And another Meckler piece notes that critical queer theory is also being introduced in kindergarten: one teacher teaches the pronoun “ze,” and the term “genderqueer” to three year olds! The attempt to deny any such thing is happening has been abandoned.
It’s not hopeless at the NYT either. They have begun ever so slightly to allow diversity of opinion again. Michael Powell is still there to report what is actually going on — like the trans-nutters’ attempt to ban the word “woman” in the context of abortion rights. Jay Caspian Kang has been hired; even John McWhorter is now there. One of these days they may even hire a conservative who isn’t Ross Douthat.
More media vibe shifts: CNN is re-examining some of its deeply partisan hosts. Gannett, which owns USA Today, is cutting back on opinion pieces because their readers “perceive us as having a biased agenda.” The Atlantic has published Nellie Bowles’ evisceration of San Francisco’s progressive leadership. The best exposure of BLM’s financial corruption was by Sean Campbell in New York Magazine.
Other aspects of the left narrative have imploded. The early Biden assurance that inflation was only a blip has become ridiculous, as Janet Yellen herself has conceded. No, Biden isn’t responsible for most of it. But some of it? Yep. A massive boost to demand when supply is crippled is dumb policy making. And imagine how worse it would be if Biden had gotten his entire package. Larry Summers was right — again.
Then there’s the hysteria over “Jim Crow 2.0” — as the president described Georgia’s new election law. Weird how it gave us record turnout in the primaries. The narrative of white supremacists attacking Asian-Americans? Another fiction of the left-media — as the attacks come from many racial groups, and all the actual stories proved it.
In the popular culture, the scolds are retreating. Netflix finally found a spine and told its woke employees to go elsewhere if they can’t handle shows they disapprove of. The great Dave Chappelle is doing a new show with Chris Rock. Ricky Gervais and Bill Maher have challenged trans extremism — and thrived. Gervais’ latest special got a 29 percent critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, alongside a 92 percent audience score.
Biden’s proposed disinformation board collapsed almost before it began. And the Depp/Heard defamation trial revealed the actual truth of domestic violence: it goes both ways. What the jury found was that many of these cases are complicated. They cannot all be flattened into a simple male-oppresses-female template. Some absolutely can. But in others, women also lie, manipulate, and commit violence against their spouses. Heard’s proven lies made a difference.
Can the Democrats de-toxify and regroup? I’m not sure they have time before November; but even if they did, I doubt at this point that Biden can do it. He doesn’t seem to understand the legitimate criticisms of the cultural left he has yoked himself to during his first two years. And in a very rare interview this week — Jimmy Kimmel’s — he seemed to blame the press for his inability to get his voice above the din. This is not the kind of thing a successful president says.
There’s an opening here for a future Democratic presidential candidate. Be your generation’s Bill Clinton. Be the person who finally takes on woke intolerance and leftist delusion. Focus on crime, income inequality, affordable healthcare, getting inflation under control, and beefing up the border. These issues should not be conceded to the GOP — as Clinton and Obama showed. The consequences of staying on the current course are more fatal now than they were when Clinton and Obama dragged the Dems to the center, and won over conservatives like me. The result could be the re-election of Donald Trump. If that doesn’t merit a shake-up, what would?
(Note to readers: This is an excerpt of The Weekly Dish. If you’re already a subscriber, click here to read the full version. This week’s issue also includes: my placeholder impression of the Jan 6 hearings; my studio-audience chat with Jamie Kirchick on his new history of gay Washington; reader dissents over my review of Jamie’s book and my tweet about the “1619 riots”; a new transcript of our pod with Charles Murray; a handful of notable quotes for the week; about a dozen links to our favorite Substack reads; a Hathos Alert over a “clean energy” car; a serene video of circles; a lovely backyard view from Ohio, and, of course, the results of the View From Your Window contest — with a new challenge. Subscribe for the full Dish experience!)
From a happy subscriber we’re grateful for:
I’d like to congratulate you and Chris on your Dishcast, and for bringing a much-needed voice of reason and reflection to our increasingly divisive and hysterical national conversation. Receiving your weekly newsletter has become a much-anticipated feature of my Fridays, and I admire how the Dish has carved out a niche outside the mass-media outlets that have more and more substituted news reporting and reflection with ideological propaganda, both on the left and the right of the political spectrum.
A Clear And Present Danger
I hope to cover the hearings into the assault on the Capitol once we’ve seen more of the evidence and witnesses. But a simple point about last night’s coverage.
Donald J. Trump is a uniquely destructive force in American history, the first real tyrannical spirit to inhabit the office since Andrew Jackson. I do not think this should divide Democrats and Republicans. The proof of his unique depravity: he directly fomented a plot to overturn the results of a legitimate election, despite being told by his closest aides that no serious fraud had taken place, and ultimately egged on a mob to inflict violence on the Congress, including his vice president, who he believed deserved to be hanged for sustaining the constitutional order. If you think that wild mob was just a “dust-up”, watch the video above.
This renders any other verdict on Trump or his policies moot. It should be the end of any sane discussion. He’s a human stain on the nation, a name that should go down in infamy for as long as this republic stands. Yesterday, he put out this horrifying statement:
January 6th was not simply a protest, it represented the greatest movement in the history of our Country to Make America Great Again. It was about an Election that was Rigged and Stolen, and a country that was about to go to HELL.
Supporting his policies is one thing. Legitimizing his pathologies, delusions and contempt for our democratic system is quite another. In my mind, loyalty to this monster renders the bulk of the GOP arsenic for our political system. And until they’ve purged Trump, we have to purge them.
New On The Dishcast: Jamie Kirchick
We took the podcast on the road this week — to Provincetown for a live chat with Jamie Kirchick, whose book, Secret City, I reviewed last week. We were able to discuss much more than could be covered in pixels — with questions from the audience as well.
For two clips of my convo with Jamie — on the similarities between anti-Semitism and homophobia, and on whether J. Edgar Hoover was gay — head over to our YouTube page. Listen to the whole episode here. That link also takes you to a bunch of reader stories and comments on our popular episode with Kathleen Stock on the transgender debate. You can also find our new transcript for the episode we did with Charles Murray last year.
Dissents Of The Week
There hasn’t been much pushback over my review of Jamie’s new history of gay Washington, but one reader has a “bone of contention” over my description of Alger Hiss as a “Communist traitor”:
So far, even with the inclusion of the Venona Papers, Hiss’ guilt is not a certain thing. Soviet intelligence officers in the ‘90s had no evidence of his involvement with Soviet intelligence. The Venona Papers are not clear here either. I believe Hiss’ guilt will never be truly known. We do know that he went to his death proclaiming his innocence.
I can’t regurgitate the vast Hiss discourse here, but the vast amount of evidence shows his guilt. Another reader is perturbed by my tweets:
You know, I try to convince people to listen to your podcast and maybe subscribe. And then you tweet something like this: “$2 billion in property damage in the 1619 riots — which were followed by a surge in murders of black Americans. You can despise this mass violence as well as January 6.”
And I’m back to square one. No one rioting in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder was thinking about the 1619 Project. Yes, those riots were damaging to the cause of racial justice, but using the term “1619 riots” just makes you look stupid. Twitter is a bad addiction. It makes you think in mindless snippets. I really hope that Musk buys it and then destroys it.
I used that term precisely because Nikole Hannah-Jones, who created the 1619 Project, claimed proud ownership of the violence at the time. I probably should have been more specific. Here’s what I was referring to (a tweet that she has predictably deleted):
I did so also because the violence was defended at the time as legitimate political protest against “white supremacy” — which the 1619 Project insisted was still as vibrant as it was a century ago. Much of the staff at the 1619 Project’s publication, the NYT, defenestrated an editor who published an op-ed calling for military intervention to quell the chaos. Looting was defended by the 1619 crowd as merely taking back what had been taken. A “project” that calls our current democracy illegitimate because it is now and always has been merely a form of anti-black oppression inherently justifies violence against tyranny.
As for tweets, I’m trying harm reduction. I’ve taken Twitter off my phone and iPad. Henceforth, I’m banning myself from it entirely the day after my fortnightly testosterone shot — which I suspect makes me more prone to pop off.
And as always, keep the dissents coming: firstname.lastname@example.org.
An executive at GM boasts about their new electric car, which is powered by a battery which is powered by a building which is powered by … uh oh:
In The ‘Stacks
This week’s selection of Substack recommendations include subjects such as the global grain crisis, the GOP’s new approach to climate change, and a new documentary on the sexual binary. Below are a few examples, followed by a newcomer to Substack:
The View From Your Window Contest
Where do you think it’s located? Email your guess to email@example.com. Please put the location — city and/or state first, then country — in the subject line. Proximity counts if no one gets the exact spot. Bonus points for fun facts and stories. The winner gets the choice of a VFYW photo book or two annual Dish subscriptions. If you are not a subscriber, please indicate that status in your entry and we will give you a free month subscription if we select your entry for the contest results. Happy sleuthing!
The results for last week’s window are coming in a separate email to paid subscribers later today. Here’s a subscriber followup on the contest from Napa Valley:
Thank you, Chris, for including this passage from one of your readers: “Last summer, close to the foot of the Grape Crusher statue, I attended a small dinner where San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone spoke. He talked about the cultural challenges facing the country, but at one point, a teenager with Down Syndrome stood up and said, “Thank you for loving people like me” — a reference to the Archbishop’s deep opposition to abortion. Everyone lost it.”
Reading that, I lost it, too. After being consumed in reading coverage and commentary of the senseless deaths of children this week in my home state of Texas, boy did I need a reminder (and a good, long cry, apparently) that there’s a successful fight for life as well. And in that serendipitous story, was the profound, personal truth that oftentimes love wins.
We are a beautiful, horrifying species. Thanks for accentuating the former. You and Andrew have built an amazing community. I’m so glad to have found the Dish.
See you next Friday.