Sullivan: Why the Reactionary Right Must Be Taken Seriously

The conclusion of Andrew Sullivan’s exploration and conversations with some thinkers of the reactionary right. A good long and thoughtful read:

This, of course, is not to defend the neo-reactionary response. Their veiled racism is disturbing, and their pessimism a solipsistic pathology. When Anton finds nothing in modernity to celebrate but, as he put it to me, “nice restaurants, good wine, a high standard of living,” it comes off as a kind of pose, deliberately blind to all the constant renewals of life and culture around us. When Houellebecq has one of his characters sigh, “For a man to bring a child into the world now is meaningless,” I chortle. When Dreher hyperventilates that today’s youngsters “could be one of the last generations of this thing called Western civilization” and that American Christians today must “live lives prepared to suffer severe hardship, even death, for our faith,” I take my dogs for a walk. When Yarvin insists that “if the 20th century does not go down in history as the golden age of awful government, it is only because the future holds some fresher hell for us,” I check my Instagram account. There is something hysterical here, too manically certain, bleaker than any human being can bear for long.

And how can you seriously regard our political system and culture as worse than ever before in history? How self-centered do you have to be to dismiss the unprecedented freedom for women, racial minorities, and homosexuals? Or the increased security for the elderly and unemployed, and the greater access to health care by the poor and now the working poor? Compare the air we breathe today with that of the 1950s. Contrast the religious tolerance we take for granted today with the enmities of the past. Compare the racial integration of today, incomplete as it may be, with Jim Crow. Observe the historically low levels of crime compared with the recent past — and the absence of any world wars since 1945. Over the very long haul, too, scholars such as Steven Pinker have found convincing evidence that violence among humans is at the lowest levels since the species first emerged.

If the neo-reactionaries were entirely right, the collapse of our society would surely have happened long before now. But somehow, an historically unprecedented mix of races and cultures hasn’t led to civil war in the United States. In fact, majorities welcome immigration, and enjoy the new cultures that new immigrants bring. A majority backed Trump’s opponent last November. America has assimilated so many before, its culture churning into new forms, without crashing into incoherence. London may be 40 percent nonwhite and repellent to much of rural England — but it works, its inhabitants seem unfazed, its culture remains world-class. The European Union massively overreached by mandating a common currency and imposing brutal austerity, but its conflicts have not led to mass violence, its standard of living remains high, and its achievement of Continental peace is far preferable to the carnage that destroyed Europe in the last century. It may well stagger on, if it can only moderate itself.

It is also one thing to be vigilant about the power of the administrative state and to attempt to reform and modernize it; it is quite another to favor its abolition. The more complex modern society has become, the more expertise is needed to govern it — and where else is that expertise going to come from if not a professional elite? For that matter, the liberal media has nothing like the monopoly it once enjoyed. There are two “Cathedrals” in the 21st century — and only one has helped produce a conservative Supreme Court, a Republican Congress, a Republican president, and near-record Republican majorities in statehouses around the country. Non-leftist thought is suppressed in the academy and is currently subjected to extreme intolerance and even violence on many campuses. That has to change. But some ideas from the neo-reactionary underground — like the notion that carbon has little to do with rising world temperatures — are in the underground for a reason. And still, climate-change denial is the de facto policy of the American government.

Beyond all that, neo-reactionaries have a glaring problem, which is that their proposed solutions are so radical they have no chance whatsoever of coming into existence — and would be deeply reckless to attempt. Their rage eclipses their argument. The notion that public opinion could be marshaled to effect a total reset of American government in favor of a new form of monarchy, as Yarvin suggests, is, to be blunt, bonkers. And is America seriously going to remain a white-majority country? How, exactly? Can the U.S. economy suddenly unwind global manufacturing patterns? Can America simply abandon its global role and its long-standing commitments to allies?

Of course not. And the Trump administration is, day by day, proving this. An isolationist foreign policy collapsed at the first gust of reality. A thinly veiled Muslim immigration ban would have accomplished nothing — most Islamist terrorism is homegrown — and went nowhere. The communities that once thrived off manufacturing or coal mining are not coming back. Even the most draconian mass deportation of undocumented immigrants will not change the demographics of America — or suddenly raise wages for the working class. Global trade has become too entrenched to be reversed. The dismantling of Obamacare dismantled itself — not because of an elite plot but because, when confronted with its being taken away, a majority of Americans balked.

There is, perhaps, a way to use reactionary insights and still construct a feasible center-right agenda. Such a program would junk Reaganite economics as outdated but keep revenue-neutral tax reform, it could even favor redistribution to counter the deep risk to democracy that soaring inequality fosters, and it could fix Obamacare’s technical problems. You could add to this mix stronger border control, a reduction in legal immigration, a pause in free-trade expansion, a technological overhaul of the government bureaucracy, and a reassertion of Americanism over multiculturalism. This is not an impossible direction for the Republican Party to go — though it would have to abandon its know-nothing narcissist of a leader and its brain-dead congressional leaders. The left, for its part, must, it seems to me, escape its own bubble and confront the accelerating extremism of its identity politics and its disdain for millions of “deplorable” white Americans. You will not arrest the reactionary momentum by ignoring it or dismissing it entirely as a function of bigotry or stupidity. You’ll only defuse it by appreciating its insights and co-opting its appeal.

Reaction can be clarifying if it helps us better understand the huge challenges we now face. But reaction by itself cannot help us manage the world we live in today — which is the only place that matters. You start with where you are, not where you were or where you want to be. There are no utopias in the future or Gardens of Eden in our past. There is just now — in all its incoherent, groaning, volatile messiness. Our job, like everyone before us, is to keep our nerve and make the best of it.

Source: Sullivan: Why the Reactionary Right Must Be Taken Seriously

How the alt-right weaponized free speech

Refreshing and needed historical perspective on the free-speech movement and its co-opting by the right:

Indeed, Berkeley’s far-right agitators routinely invoke the memory of activist Mario Savio, the standard-bearer of the FSM, going so far as to declare themselves “the new Free Speech Movement.” This, while boasting of the endorsement of America’s highest office: “The more abuse and harassment we suffer,” warned the Berkeley College Republicans in a joint op-ed following Yiannopoulos’s cancelled appearance, “the more controversial speakers we will invite to campus. We proceed fearlessly because we know we have the president of the United States on our side.”

Indeed, in February, President Trump implicitly threatened to withhold federal funds from the university for failing to cater to Yiannopoulos who, amid the renewed controversy involving Coulter, has announced a comeback, sensing an opportunity to regain status and rehabilitate his ego—not to mention, profit mightily.

“We will give out a new free speech prize—the Mario Savio Award—to the person we believe has done most to protect free expression at UC Berkeley and its surrounding area,” proclaimed Yiannopoulos in promoting Milo’s “Free Speech Week.” “Each day will be dedicated to a different enemy of free speech, including feminism, Black Lives Matter and Islam.”

This co-opting of Savio’s legacy is a calculated provocation, one that his son Daniel calls “some kind of sick joke.” Savio led the FSM to victory in ending all restrictions to political activity on campus, which included the rights of orators from all political perspectives. “Rather than ban speakers he disagreed with, Savio debated them, whether they were deans, faculty, the student-body president, or whoever,” wrote Robert Cohen, author of Freedom’s Orator: Mario Savio and the Radical Legacy of the 1960s. “And this was the spirit not only of Savio but of the FSM, which had an almost Gandhian faith that through open discourse anyone had the potential to be won over” to a cause.

Savio was a veteran of the civil-rights movement, and as Cohen details, “sought to convince the editors of the student newspaper there that their use of the term “n—-r” in the paper was hurtful and irresponsible … Savio did not deny students had the right to print what they chose, but asked that they reach out to their black classmates and reflect on whether in the future they could be more thoughtful about the impact their words had on the campus community.”

The FSM’s quest was decent and honest—it was about engaging in open, rigorous debate and the exchange of ideas, no matter how inflammatory or loathsome, with a goal of making progress. What’s happening now isn’t about discussion: it’s pure political tribalism. People like Coulter and Yiannopoulos aren’t brought to campus to contribute substance—hearing either speak for a few minutes quickly puts lie to claims of their brilliance. They are skilled antagonists who can reliably incite backlash from a perceived enemy; they are, as Dorian Lynskey of The Guardian describes, the “outcome of a grotesque convergence of politics, entertainment and the internet in which an empty vessel can thrive unchecked by turning hate speech into show business.”

Where trauma, real or perceived, has become a sort of morbid currency in some circles of the left, often used to justify unworkable demands of individuals and institutions, the self-described “politically incorrect”—adults who consider childlike behaviour to be heroically subversive—are in the grievance trade. Because each provocation inflates the value of a carefully-crafted persona, victimhood is actively—and ironically—sought; they prey on the vulnerable, ridicule targets of well-documented discrimination, then cry persecution when met with resistance.

While it’s vital to uphold and protect the right of all speech on campus—even the most abhorrent rhetoric from the ranks of the alt-right—it’s crucial to identify this new game being played and, as Savio desired, critically judge “whether the speech … is really free, or merely cant.”

And it matters that influential voices, while rightly demanding institutions uphold free speech norms, explicitly make that distinction.

Source: How the alt-right weaponized free speech – Macleans.ca

Shepard Fairey and Ai Weiwei On Using Art To Fight President Trump

Always find Ai Weisei’s art and activism of interest, and the role art can play in debate:

Among the colorful poster art from the Women’s March protests, you may have seen the red-white-and-blue face of a Muslim-American woman wearing an American flag hijab–one of a series of inauguration-inspired “We the People” images by graphic artist Shepard Fairey, he of the Obama “Hope” poster fame.

Commissioned by the non-profit Amplifier Foundation, Fairey’s “We the People” posters were alluring visual representations of the resistance movement: a group of diverse people pushing back against the Trump administration’s fearmongering and racism.

Like most of his work, the posters were sold on his “Obey Giant” company website for $100 (some $900,000 proceeds were donated to the ACLU), though many of the artist’s original works have fetched upwards of $70,000 at auction.

Today, Fairey has launched a series of limited-edition skateboards in response to Trump’s first 100 days as president. Collaborating with the Skateroom, a San Francisco-based contemporary art brand, Fairey has turned his “No Future” artwork into a kind of skateboard triptych.

The Skateroom has also released three skate decks by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, showing Ai flashing his middle finger at the White House. The black-and-white “fuck you” to the Trump administration is part of a series of images of Ai flipping off various buildings and landmarks around the world.

Ai Weiwei, who was not available for an interview, said in a statement about the collaboration: “My favorite word is ‘act’. I am partnering with the Skateroom for that very reason.”

Proceeds from Ai’s collaboration will go to Bridging Peoples, a non-profit charity in Turkey dedicated to combatting all forms of discrimination, and B’Tselem, an organization supporting human rights in Israeli-occupied territories.

“During the filming of Human Flow, my documentary on the global refugee condition, I had the opportunity to speak with individuals from both B’Tselem and the Bridging Peoples Association in Turkey,” Ai said. “What these two organizations do is very valuable to society, both in fighting against injustice and in helping those that are unfortunate.”

In a conversation over email, Fairey spoke with the Daily Beast about the meaning of “No Future,” the urgency to create art in the Trump era, and the artists calling for censorship of Dana Schutz’s “Open Casket” painting at this year’s Whitney Biennial.

DB: When did you first conceive “No Future” and what is the message you are trying to convey with this work? Is it an extension of your drive to “question everything”?

SF: The piece does fall within my philosophy of questioning everything, but there are more specific reasons for the image and text. I’m a big fan of wordplay and language in general, so a few of the ideas in the piece began percolating early in Trump’s bid for the presidency.

Inspired by lyrics from the Sex Pistols (“No Future”) and the hubris of the early European inhabitants of what would become the United States that led to their belief that it was God’s will for them to conquer ocean to ocean, I think that what led largely to Trump’s election was the manifestation of the too-common mindset that facts don’t matter; in other words, “manifest destiny”—the truth will not penetrate the barriers of our ideology if the truth doesn’t sit well with our predispositions.

I come from punk rock so the Sex Pistols and their song “God Save the Queen” with the refrain “No Future” was a big protest anthem for me growing up. However, unlike the nihilism of “God Save the Queen” my use of “No Future” employs more of a bait and switch tactic. A lot of people felt defeated and hopeless by Trump’s election, but I feel his election should energize people to resist apathy, ignorance, sexism, xenophobia, and racism.

Source: Shepard Fairey and Ai Weiwei On Using Art To Fight President Trump

We all thought having more data was better. We were wrong. – Recode

Interesting set of arguments against the use of big data in all circumstances and the value of small, focussed data sets:

For years, the mantra in the world of business software and enterprise IT has been “data is the new gold.” The idea was that companies of nearly every shape and size, across every industry imaginable, were essentially sitting on top of buried treasure that was just waiting to be tapped into. All they needed to do was to dig into the correct vein of their business data trove and they would be able to unleash valuable insights that could unlock hidden business opportunities, new sources of revenue, better efficiencies and much more.

Big software companies like IBM, Oracle, SAP and many more all touted these visions of data grandeur, and turned the concept of big data analytics, or just Big Data, into everyday business nomenclature.

Even now, analytics is also playing an important role in the Internet of Things, on both the commercial and industrial side, as well as on the consumer side. On the industrial side, companies are working to mine various datastreams for insights into how to improve their processes, while consumer-focused analytics show up in things like health and fitness data linked to wearables, and will soon be a part of assisted and autonomous driving systems in our cars.

Of course, the everyday reality of these grand ideas hasn’t always lived up to the hype. While there certainly have been many great success stories of companies reducing their costs or figuring out new business models, there are probably an equal (though unreported) number of companies that tried to find the gold in their data — and spent a lot of money doing so — but came up relatively empty.

The truth is, analytics is hard, and there’s no guarantee that analyzing huge chunks of data is going to translate into meaningful insights. Challenges may arise from applying the wrong tools to a given job, not analyzing the right data, or not even really knowing exactly what to look for in the first place. Regardless, it’s becoming clear to many organizations that a decade or more into the “big data” revolution, not everyone is hitting it rich.

Part of the problem is that some of the efforts are simply too big — at several different levels. Sometimes the goals are too grandiose, sometimes the datasets are too large, and sometimes the valuable insights are buried beneath a mound of numbers or other data that just really isn’t that useful. Implicit in the phrase “big data,” as well as the concept of data as gold, is that more is better. But in the case of analytics, a legitimate question worth considering: Is more data really better?

In the world of IoT, for example, many organizations are realizing that doing what I call “little data analytics” is actually much more useful. Instead of trying to mine through large datasets, these organizations are focusing their efforts on a simple stream of sensor-based data or other straightforward data collection work. For the untold number of situations across a range of industries where these kinds of efforts haven’t been done before, the results can be surprisingly useful. In some instances, these projects create nothing more than a single insight into a given process for which companies can quickly adjust — a “one and done” type of effort — but ongoing monitoring of these processes can ensure that the adjustments continue to run efficiently.

Of course, it’s easy to understand why nobody really wants to talk about little data. It’s not exactly a sexy, attention-grabbing topic, and working with it requires much less sophisticated tools — think Excel spreadsheet (or the equivalent) on a PC, for example. The analytical insights from these “little data” efforts are also likely to be relatively simple. However, that doesn’t mean they are less practical and valuable to an organization. In fact, building up a collection of these little data analytics could prove to be exactly what many organizations need. Plus, they’re the kind of results that can help justify the expenses necessary for companies to start investing in IoT efforts.

To be fair, not all applications are really suited for little data analytics. Monitoring the real-time performance of a jet engine or even a moving car involves a staggering amount of data that’s going to continue to require the most advanced computing and big data analytics tools available.

But to get more real-world traction for IoT-based efforts, companies may want to change their approach to data analytics efforts and start thinking small.

Source: We all thought having more data was better. We were wrong. – Recode

ICYMI: America’s Cult of Ignorance – The Daily Beast

An excerpt from Tom Nichols’ The Death of Expertise:

So why all the fuss? What exactly has changed so dramatically for me to have written this book and for you to be reading it? Is this really the “death of expertise,” or is this nothing more than the usual complaints from intellectuals that no one listens to them despite their self-anointed status as the smartest people in the room? Maybe it’s nothing more than the anxiety about the masses that arises among professionals after each cycle of social or technological change. Or maybe it’s just a typical expression of the outraged vanity of overeducated, elitist professors like me.

Indeed, maybe the death of expertise is a sign of progress. Educated professionals, after all, no longer have a stranglehold on knowledge. The secrets of life are no longer hidden in giant marble mausoleums, the great libraries of the world whose halls are intimidating even to the relatively few people who can visit them. Under such conditions in the past, there was less stress between experts and lay people, but only because citizens were simply unable to challenge experts in any substantive way. Moreover, there were few public venues in which to mount such challenges in the era before mass communications.

Participation in political, intellectual, and scientific life until the early 20th century was far more circumscribed, with debates about science, philosophy, and public policy all conducted by a small circle of educated males with pen and ink. Those were not exactly the

Good Old Days, and they weren’t that long ago. The time when most people didn’t finish high school, when very few went to college, and when only a tiny fraction of the population entered professions is still within living memory of many Americans.

Social changes only in the past half century finally broke down old barriers of race, class, and sex not only between Americans in general but also between uneducated citizens and elite experts in particular. A wider circle of debate meant more knowledge but more social friction. Universal education, the greater empowerment of women and minorities, the growth of a middle class, and increased social mobility all threw a minority of experts and the majority of citizens into direct contact, after nearly two centuries in which they rarely had to interact with each other.

And yet the result has not been a greater respect for knowledge, but the growth of an irrational conviction among Americans that everyone is as smart as everyone else. This is the opposite of education, which should aim to make people, no matter how smart or accomplished they are, learners for the rest of their lives. Rather, we now live in a society where the acquisition of even a little learning is the endpoint, rather than the beginning, of education. And this is a dangerous thing.

Senators oppose ‘clunky, pedestrian’ gender-neutral changes to O Canada

I have some sympathy for the arguments of Fraser and MacDonald. Yet another example of the Senate exercising more independence:

Some members of the Senate are determined to stop Parliament from changing the words of the national anthem, with one senator deriding the late Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger‘s proposed amendments to O Canada as “clunky, leaden and pedestrian.”

Liberal Senator Joan Fraser, a self-described “ardent feminist,” said the new phrasing is both grammatically incorrect and a misguided attempt to make the song reflect “today’s values.”

“It’s a fine example of what happens when you let politicians meddle,” she said of Bill C-210 to amend the National Anthem Act. “Politicians are not usually poets.”

Bélanger, who passed away last summer after a battle with ALS, sought to make the anthem gender-neutral by removing the phrase “all thy sons command” and replacing it with “all of us command.”

The bill passed in the House of Commons largely along party lines, with all Liberal and NDP MPs voting in favour of the changes, while most Conservatives opposed. Some notable female Tory MPs, including Michelle Rempel and Lisa Raitt, backed Bélanger’s bill.

Nearly a year later, the bill is now in its last legislative phase — third reading in the Senate — awaiting a final vote.  As per the Senate’s procedural policy, debate on the bill can be continually adjourned by critics, punting a vote on the matter to a later date.

‘Sloppy’ legislation

The bill’s backers, including Liberal MP Greg Fergus, hope to see the bill passed into law in time for Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations on July 1.

While others, including Conservative Nova Scotia Senator Michael MacDonald, have said the “sloppy” legislation should be defeated in its present form because it’s simply an attempt to sanitize a national symbol.

“If we are constantly revising everything because it was written in another generation, our national symbols will have no value. Our history means nothing in this country anymore, and it’s a shame that we’re doing this,” he said in an interview with CBC News. “The Senate should not be reticent in defending and preserving the heritage of Canada.”

Fraser, a journalist and editor appointed by former prime minister Jean Chrétien in 1998, said it is a dangerous precedent to start fiddling with lyrics written by a man long dead.

“If we are to become engrossed in the idea that we must at all times be correctly modern, we lose a part of our heritage,” Fraser said in a recent speech to the Red Chamber. “It may not be a perfect heritage — I’m not suggesting it is — but it is ours. I suggest that it deserves respect and acceptance for what it is: imperfect but our own.”

Fraser said if inclusion is the primary goal, it makes little sense to leave overtly Christian references untouched. Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s government added the words “God keep our land glorious and free” in 1980, she noted, the same year the song officially became the country’s national anthem.

“Make no mistake about it, colleagues: we’re talking about the Christian god here, not just anyone’s god,” she said.

Since 1980, 12 private member’s bills have been introduced in the House to strip the gendered reference to “sons,” which some have argued is discriminatory. All attempts have failed.

“It is something that will make our national anthem more inclusive,” Independent Ontario Senator Frances Lankin said in defence of the bill last month. “This change might be small, but it may very well have a major impact on how the next generation views our evolving history.”

The song itself has been changed many times since the English version was first penned in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir, a judge and poet. Indeed, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, Weir changed the line in question from “thou dost in us command” to “in all thy sons command.”

‘Social justice warrior seal of approval’

MacDonald is vehemently opposed to Bélanger’s wording because he believes the “politically correct” changes were rammed through the House despite little or no public demand for such a modification.

He said the Liberal government used Bélanger, a man who was near death, as a “vehicle” for the changes.

“That’s not the way to use Parliament. Everybody knows the tragedy of his circumstances, a very tragic thing — but, with respect, it’s the government that treated it like the Children’s Wish Foundation,” MacDonald said.

“This is just change for the sake of change, and just catering to a very narrow group of people who want to impose their agenda on everything,” he said. “Leave the anthem alone.”

The Cape Breton senator also takes issue with the bill because it only changes the English-language version of the national anthem, even though the French words would have a hard time getting the “social justice warrior seal of approval.”

“Why should one official version of the anthem be exempt from re-examination?” MacDonald said. “It is, without question, an ethnic French-Canadian, Catholic, nationalist battle hymn, certainly non-inclusive, yet I am not offended. It is just part of Canada’s history in song.”

MacDonald said he has consulted with English and linguistic professors about the wording change, and they agree that the bill’s authors “botched” the language.

“The proper and only acceptable pronoun substitution for the phrase ‘All thy sons command’ is ‘All of our command,'” MacDonald said. “This is not opinion. This is fact.”  (The full text of his speech can be read here.)

Source: Senators oppose ‘clunky, pedestrian’ gender-neutral changes to O Canada – Politics – CBC News

Statistique Canada minimise le recul du français | Le Devoir

A somewhat complex read on the metholology of official language statistics, arguing that the maternal language, rather than language most used, understates the relative decline of French:

Le poids du français au Québec recule de façon jamais vue, alors que l’anglais s’est mis à progresser. Dans sa récente étude Projections linguistiques pour le Canada, 2011 à 2036, Statistique Canada s’emploie à minimiser cette nouvelle dynamique.

Selon l’étude, le poids du français, tant langue maternelle que langue d’usage, continuerait de chuter rapidement, tandis que l’anglais poursuivrait sa lente progression. Mais le français reculerait nettement moins comme la première langue officielle parlée, ou PLOP, voire pas du tout sur l’île de Montréal.

La PLOP se calcule à partir des données sur la connaissance des langues officielles, la langue maternelle et la langue d’usage. Rappelons que la Commission Laurendeau-Dunton avait jugé que la langue maternelle ne nous renseigne pas sur la langue courante des personnes recensées. Elle avait suggéré d’ajouter une question sur leur langue d’usage à la maison, en précisant que « nous croyons qu’on devrait utiliser [les réponses] par la suite comme base de calcul ».

Statistique Canada a choisi d’accorder néanmoins priorité à la langue maternelle sur la langue d’usage pour répartir les individus en quatre groupes qui ont comme PLOP le français, l’anglais, le français et l’anglais, ou ni le français ni l’anglais. Pour abréger, appelons-les francoplops, angloplops, biplops et niplops.

L’organisme fédéral compte d’abord tout unilingue français comme francoplop et tout unilingue anglais comme angloplop. Parmi les individus restants, qui sont bilingues ou encore ne connaissent ni le français ni l’anglais, il compte comme francoplops ceux qui ont comme langue maternelle le français ou le français et une langue non officielle, et comme angloplops ceux qui ont comme langue maternelle l’anglais ou l’anglais et une langue non officielle. Il fait ensuite de même avec la langue d’usage pour définir d’autres francoplops et angloplops. Enfin, Statistique Canada compte les allophones qui ne connaissent ni le français ni l’anglais comme niplops et compte tous les autres individus non encore répartis comme biplops. La grande majorité des biplops sont des allophones bilingues qui parlent encore leur langue maternelle comme langue d’usage.

Il est instructif de suivre plutôt la Commission Laurendeau-Dunton et d’inverser les étapes de ce calcul qui font appel à la langue maternelle et à la langue d’usage. La PLOP de Statistique Canada compte 7 507 885 francoplops au Canada en 2011. La PLOP Laurendeau-Dunton, qui priorise la langue d’usage, en compte 7 173 425. D’une PLOP à l’autre, leur poids au Canada passe de 22,7 % à 21,7 %.

La différence provient pour l’essentiel de l’anglicisation des francophones. En 2011, le Canada comptait 448 805 individus de langue maternelle française mais de langue d’usage anglaise. Ce sont des francoplops, selon Statistique Canada, mais des angloplops, selon l’approche Laurendeau-Dunton. L’organisme gonfle ainsi le nombre de francoplops au Canada, en particulier à l’extérieur du Québec.

L’anglicisation sévit aussi, toutefois, dans l’île de Montréal, qui compte 59,7 % de francoplops, manière Laurendeau-Dunton, comparativement à 60,6 % selon Statistique Canada.

L’étude nous induit en erreur sur un autre point. Elle redistribue arbitrairement les biplops de façon égale entre francoplops et angloplops. Appelons donc francobiplops et anglobiplops les nouveaux regroupements grossis par ce forcing arbitraire. L’étude affirme que les biplops ne représentent pas plus de 0,5 % de la population, autrement dit que son forcing ne modifie pas de façon significative notre perception des choses.

C’est faux. En 2011, les biplops représentaient au Canada 1,1 % de la population. Au Québec, c’était 3,1 %. Dans la région de Montréal, 5,7 %. Dans l’île, 8,2 %.

Nous sommes maintenant à même de saisir comment l’auteur de l’étude, Jean-Claude Corbeil, a pu prétendre le 26 janvier dernier dans Le Devoir que « si on utilise plutôt la PLOP, on constate que les deux tiers des Montréalais sont plus à l’aise en français [qu’en anglais] ». Et qu’« en 2036, on devrait toujours, selon les divers scénarios, demeurer à ce niveau-là ».

Il faut d’abord faire semblant que la PLOP façon Statistique Canada indique correctement dans quelle langue officielle un individu se sent le plus à l’aise. Cela produit 60,6 % de francoplops pour l’île de Montréal en 2011. Outre ce que donne ainsi la PLOP, proprement dite, il faut ajouter la moitié du 8,2 % de biplops. Cela donne presque 65 % de francobiplops. D’où le « deux tiers ». Puis, on fait de même pour 2036. L’étude ne révèle pas le détail de ses projections, mais elles font sans doute passer les francoplops – même calculés façon Statistique Canada – sous le seuil de 60 %, et hissent en même temps les biplops au-dessus de 10 %. Ce qui donnerait de nouveau quelque 65 % de francobiplops.

Or, en 2011, l’île de Montréal comptait trois allophones bilingues (anglais et français) de langue d’usage anglaise pour deux qui s’étaient francisés. Le temps seul nous dira comment les allophones bilingues se répartiront à l’avenir entre le français et l’anglais. Cela dépendra notamment du rapport de force entre le français et l’anglais, comme langues d’usage. Selon l’étude elle-même, si rien ne change, ce rapport continuerait à se détériorer. Deux choix s’offrent à nous : nous laisser endormir en comptant les francobiplops ou agir pour mettre fin à la dynamique actuelle des langues au Québec.

Source: Statistique Canada minimise le recul du français | Le Devoir

Where’s Jonathan Swift When We Need Him? – The Daily Beast

Nice piece by John Stubbs on Swift’s enduring relevance in a “post-truth” and “alternative facts” world (George Orwell is also worth re-reading):

Jonathan Swift’s “Essay upon the Art of Political Lying” tells us that “post-truth” statements are nothing new. “As the vilest writer hath his readers, so the greatest liar hath his believers: and it often happens, that if a lie be believed only for an hour, it hath done its work.” He was writing in 1710, but his words have been borne out by much that has happened in the last year. Swift also begged a question that many are asking now: Will there be any room left in politics for those who aren’t prepared to lie?

Swift’s hatred of falsehood sat oddly, in fact, with his love of a good fib. Some of his most celebrated works were elaborate hoaxes: His best known book, Gulliver’s Travels, was presented to the public as a voyager’s genuine memoir, and large numbers of readers were apparently taken in. Swift is generally regarded as the foremost satirist in English. It’s mentioned less often, though, that he was also a master of the primary art of getting facts in order and checking sources. By the time Gulliver emerged into the world, Swift had already made a formidable name for himself as a journalist as well as a satirist.

Satirists of course have license to exaggerate and distort; but Swift insisted that there was an absolute link between verifiable fact and moral truth. He had a devastating way of letting figures speak for themselves. In one of his first publishing sensations, an anti-war work called The Conduct of the Allies (1711), he used secret information provided by friends within government. The Conduct was an epoch-shattering critique of the corrupt means being used to prolong Britain’s war against France. Swift exposed a political and financial elite set on warfare for the sake of profit, and demonstrated that “Shock Doctrine” tactics were in use long before 20th century economists figured them out. His astounding book, staggering for its deployment of research and privileged information as well as lethally brilliant writing, helped end a long and largely senseless campaign.

Swift often wrote of satire as holding up a mirror or magnifying glass to reality. Before Swift, the word “satire” was often synonymous for “libel,” the idea being that satirical writers could say more or less anything they wanted about someone they hated. Swift was not at all timid when it came to voicing his dislikes, but sought to restore a higher purpose to his chosen mode of writing. For it to carry weight, satirical mockery had to be based on solid claims. And it was important, then as now, that satire scored the points it needed: for by making people of influence seem ridiculous when they acted wrongly, it made them seem a little less frightening, and opened a space in which there could be meaningful free speech about what such people were doing.

As a protest writer in the 1720s and ’30s, Swift laid bare the injustice of British rule in Ireland. He was an Irishman himself, born in Dublin in 1667, but to English parents. To give his writing substance he went to inordinate lengths in checking the situation in the Irish countryside, where people were starving as a result of exploitative land practices and repressive legislation. He made sure that he was fully up to date with the most reliable trade figures and consulted widely with well-placed sources in business and administration.

His subsequent approach to writing itself was a dangerous one, namely to take a “post-truth” mentality as far as it could go. He fought hypocrisy by creating a series of masks. The most memorable specimen in his portfolio was his Modest Proposal, a short essay of 1729. In this he assumed the voice of an entirely sincere and indeed socially concerned psychopath. Swift’s “proposer” argues calmly that poor Irish children could be sold as delicacies for wealthy tables. The essay’s power comes partly from Swift’s vision of where callousness might lead, but also from a ruthlessly detached observation of reality. He described scenes of deprivation that all his readers could recognize.

Many of the great satirical hits in Gulliver’s Travels also take their strength from Swift’s honesty about facts that his fellow Britons and Europeans preferred to ignore or view differently. One such moment comes when Gulliver explains to the gigantic king of Brobdingnag how politics and war work in Europe. Nothing he says is very sensational; Swift’s readers could deny none of it. And so the king of Brobdingnag concludes that most of them must belong to a really horrible species of “vermin.”

A large part of Swift’s cultural legacy is his way of showing how even morally developed people can be brought to accept horrifying practices. The secret is tied up with what those people assume to be the truth. In the Travels, a morally “superior” race of horse-beings—Swift loved horses—share their land with rather brutal, dishonest and undeniably filthy humans, the Yahoos. The horses decide they have no choice but to exterminate their two-legged neighbors. This “final solution” is arguably the punishment Swift is saying we humans will ultimately deserve—for our violence to each other and contempt for the environment. But he leaves a less than inspiring image of those killer horses, which had recognizable counterparts in Swift’s actual world.

The scale and daring of “post-truth” politics might lead some to think that lies can only be fought with lies. The work of Jonathan Swift should make us pause at such a moment: the moral case, Swift urged, is undeniable when the empirical case has clear validity. This unparalleled creator of satirical fiction demonstrated that those concerned with truth should keep faith with it.

Source: Where’s Jonathan Swift When We Need Him? – The Daily Beast

The Culture of Nastiness – The New York Times

Good reflections and commentary by Teddy Wayne:

Social media has normalized casual cruelty, and those who remove the “casual” from that descriptor are simply taking it several repellent steps further than the rest of us. That internet trolls typically behave better in the real world is not, however, solely from fear of public shaming and repercussions, or even that their fundamental humanity is activated in empathetic, face-to-face conversations. It may be that they lack much of a “real world” — a strong sense of community — to begin with, and now have trouble relating to others.

Andrew Reiner, an English professor at Towson University who teaches a seminar called “Mister Rogers 101: Why Civility and Community Still Matter,” attributes much of the decline in civility, especially among younger people, to Americans’ living in relative sequestration. The majority of his students tell him they barely knew their neighbors growing up, corroborating thinkers like Robert Putnam, who in his 2000 book, “Bowling Alone,” argued that civic engagement is diminishing. Consequently, Professor Reiner believes they have little experience in working through conflicts with people with whom they must figure out a way to get along.

“Civility is the idea that you’re not always going to agree but you still have to make it work,” he said. “We fear our ideas clashing with somebody else’s, even when we’re all ultimately pulling for the same thing.”

This leads to a vicious cycle in which the breakdowns of civility and community reinforce one another.

“People think, ‘If I disagree with you, then I have to dislike you, so why should I go to a neighborhood meeting when it’s clear I’m going to disagree with them?’” he said.

Professor Reiner also chalked up some of the devolution of basic courtesy to people’s increasingly digitized existence and engagement with their phones, not one another. For an assignment, he asks his students to experiment with old-fashioned civility by committing random acts of kindness and eating with strangers.

“It’s about trying to get beyond our own insecurities and get past the possibility of rejection, and that never has to happen with our online lives,” he said. “It reintroduces the idea of social risk-taking, which not that long ago was the norm, and learning how to be uncomfortable and relearning the skills of how to talk face to face.”

Though the internet receives the brunt of censure for corroding manners, other elements of popular culture aren’t much more elevated. In my neighborhood subway station a few months ago, two posters near each other for the TV shows “Graves” (about a former president) and “Those Who Can’t” (a comedy about teachers) both featured lightly obscured depictions of the middle finger. After the election, as I looked at the one depicting Nick Nolte in front of an American flag with the presidential seal covering his offending hand, it no longer seemed so shocking that Mr. Trump would soon occupy the Oval Office.

And the putative employer wielding all the power over labor is a trademark of reality TV, where Mr. Trump honed his brand for 14 seasons on NBC and trained us to think of a blustery television personality like him as a regular and revered figure in contemporary America. We have long had game and talent shows, but elimination from them used to be gentler — or, in the case of “The Gong Show,” at least goofier — than being brusquely told, “You’re fired,” “You are the weakest link” or receiving Simon Cowell’s withering exit-interview critiques.

In the dog-eat-dog environments of these programs, cooperation and kindness are readily abandoned for back-stabbing and character assassination. Short-term strategic alliances sometimes form among rivals, but the rules of the games preclude the possibility of something like collective bargaining. Likewise, union membership has drastically shrunk in the private sector over the last four decades. Why sacrifice for another person when there can be just one top chef or model or singer, one bachelorette with the final rose, one survivor — or in your own workplace, one promotion this financial quarter amid a spate of layoffs?

As evinced by the long-running “Real Housewives” series, calm conflict resolution does not make for good ratings. Even cake baking is now a fight to the finish.

Rather than seeking the comfort of known faces with the fictional, loving families and buddies from “The Brady Bunch,” “Cheers” and “Friends,” we now crave the company of supposedly “real” squabbling family members or acquaintances from documentary-style shows, perhaps as consolation for most likely watching them by ourselves, on a small laptop or phone screen.

“We would rather watch families on reality TV than do the hard work of being in a community with our own families,” Professor Reiner said.

Many critics of Mr. Trump have drawn parallels between this era and 1930s Germany. But when it comes to incivility and the 45th president, a more apt epoch may be 1950s America and its Communist witch hunts, specifically a quotation from the lawyer Joseph N. Welch in the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings. (The chief counsel for Senator Joseph McCarthy was Roy Cohn, who later went on to become a close friend and business associate of Mr. Trump’s.)

“Have you no sense of decency, sir?” Mr. Welch asked Mr. McCarthy after Mr. McCarthy alleged that one of Mr. Welch’s fellow lawyers was a Communist.

It is a question many would like to pose to Mr. Trump — and one we all, nasty sirs and women alike, should be asking ourselves.

Andrew Coyne: Free speech needs to be guided by judgment and conscience, not rules

Another thoughtful column by Coyne:

It is common among some clear-thinkers to reject any allegation of speech suppression — a speaker being shouted down on campus, a boycott of an offending corporation, a Nazi getting punched — unless it involves the explicit use of the coercive power of the state. Anything else is merely the “consequences” of speech, for which one should accept “responsibility.” Suck it up, snowflake.

In a sense, of course they’re right. The obligations of the state are of a different order than private individuals or groups, because of its unique powers of coercion, and because coercion — the power, not merely to punish speech, but to actively prevent speech — is of a different order than mere disapproval, say, or shunning.

But the difference is not so absolute as all that. It is more of degree than kind. As private individuals, we may not be under the same obligations and constraints as the state, but that does not mean we are under none. We have still the obligations of judgment, of conscience, and of respect — for the spirit of free speech, if you will, rather than the legal letter.

At one extreme it is easy to see this. If a mob were to burn down the local newspaper and hang its editor, it is of no use to say, well, it wasn’t the government that did it, so no chilling of speech is involved. One should not have to factor in, among the “consequences” to be expected of speech, the chance that one might be murdered — or punched, for that matter.

Short of actual law-breaking, things get trickier. There is no violence in shouting down a speaker, you may say; neither is a university, as a private organization, obliged to provide a platform for opinions of which it, or a section of the university community, disapproves. No, indeed. But free speech exists, as a legal guarantee, in part because of the foundation of social values in which it is embedded.

The spirit of free speech, that is, is as important: the notion that none of us is in absolute possession of the truth; that the route to truth is through the exchange and conflict of ideas; that the rights we each enjoy are guaranteed only so far as they do not intrude upon another’s; and that, in particular, we do not have a right not to be offended, or to be spared any encounter with disagreeable words, images or ideas. If we do not live by these principles ourselves, we will shortly find neither will our creation, the state.

So far so good. But what of the more benign ways of expressing collective disapproval: boycotts, online campaigns, or Parliamentary motions? Are these mere consequences of speech, or constraints upon it?

 

Answer: It depends. Anyone who has been the subject of a Twitter mobbing can attest it can be deeply unpleasant, and quite intimidating, even without overt threats of violence. The harm to reputation, for example, of having one’s name broadly associated with sexism, racism — or “Quebec-bashing” — can be a significant deterrent to speaking freely.

Taboos, shunning and other mechanisms of social disapproval, in other words, can raise the “price” of speech to intolerable levels. On the other hand, some things are taboo for a reason. We should not feel censorious for shunning or denouncing someone who expresses hateful or noxious opinions.

Neither should we hesitate to call them what they are. A good many of the participants in the present debate seem to think their freedom to say the most virulently and prejudicially anti-Muslim things should also protect them from being accused of prejudice against Muslims — or Islamophobia — in return. Well, no. That is simply logical, as is the denunciation in the motion before Parliament.

Where do we draw the line, then? Again, it depends. It requires all of us to use our judgment. People should not be labelled bigots or hate-mongers merely for offering an unconventional view on a controversial topic. A reasoned critique of Islam’s teachings on women is not to be treated the same as, say, a blanket claim that Muslims, as a group, are “unintegrateable.” But neither should actual bigotry be excused as merely being “un-PC.”

There are no simple rules to guide us. There are only mutual obligations: not to give offence needlessly, but also not to take offence lightly; not to round up a mob every time someone’s views offend us, but neither to be intimidated by the mob when it is necessary to offend.

Source: Andrew Coyne: Free speech needs to be guided by judgment and conscience, not rules | National Post