The Industrial Revolution of Shame

From The New York Times:

Outrage is strange bait: It can feel wrong not to take it.

By Salvatore Scibona
March 9, 2019

In the 1954 John Cheever story “The Country Husband,” a man goes to a dinner party in a New York suburb and recognizes his host’s new maid, but from where? Suddenly, the scene returns to him. Years earlier, at the end of the Second World War, in a small French village where he had been deployed, he had looked on while this same woman — the wartime consort of the village’s German commandant — had been carted into a crossroads. Her neighbors had jeered while a little man had cut off her hair and shaved her skull. They had made her remove her clothes. Someone had spat on her. Crying and naked but for her worn black shoes, she had walked away from the village, alone.

Imagine, if you can bear it, this episode updated to the present: the viral video, the scene captured, shared, archived, never forgotten, its popularity measured in screen views. Rather than the gathering of a few dozen people in a town with one church and one restaurant, imagine the thousands or millions broadcasting their blame in comment sections, tweets, blog posts, many of them available forever to anyone anywhere. The offender is denied even the mercy of exile.

We are undergoing an industrial revolution in shame. New technologies have radically expanded our ability to make and distribute a product. The product is our judgment of one another. As in past industrial revolutions, the mass manufacture and use of a product previously available to just a few or in small amounts has given us the power to do harm at a previously unthinkable scale.

The defendants carted into the virtual crossroads are public figures as well as previously inconspicuous people — a drunk in a parking lot, a girl who overshares on Instagram. One day an actor is accused of faking a hate crime, another day a politician admits he attended a dance contest wearing blackface, another day a high school student’s grin seems to embody the contemptuous privilege of his class, another day those describing his grin that way are shamed for shaming him on preliminary evidence. To bring up any one of these examples is to invite the objection, “That time it was deserved!” Maybe so. But is there no way of discussing these controversies that doesn’t come down to whether an offender deserved the punishment?

Media culture has found a sweet spot in the collective psyche — outrage. Headlines are baited with it, promising an injustice. This is strange bait: It can feel wrong not to take it. Because looking away from an injustice has so often amounted to perpetuating injustice, we may feel we have a duty to click through, read the article and get mad. Even the private person who doesn’t tweet or otherwise share his thoughts in public gets sucked in, his conscience demanding the solidarity of judging in his heart, if not aloud.

However right and necessary all this judgment feels, does it feel good? Doesn’t it quickly feel, sort of, well, awful?

Traditional wisdom cautions us against excesses of judgment (see the casting of first stones, et cetera). Maybe that’s out of concern not only for the Frenchwoman Cheever describes but also for the person who spat on her. Interesting that we describe scorn as “bitter,” as though we can taste it, like a poison. Dishing it out doesn’t feel much better than taking it, but what else can we do?

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Robocalls: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Marcia Ball

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Jeremy Corbyn’s Anti-Semitic Labour Party

I pray the Democratic Party in the US doesn’t follow the British Labour Party down the same anti-Semitic rat hole the followers of Corbyn have gone down.

I have been disgusted with Left Wing anti-Semitism in this country since it first reared its ugly head in the early 1970s.  I can still romanticize my involvement with SDS and the anti-war movement of the 1960s while recognizing that with the movement I was suckered into giving credibility to some extremely nasty ideology.

From  The New York Times:

Jew hatred has re-entered the European mainstream. It makes an irrefutable case for the need for a Jewish homeland.

By Roger Cohen
Feb. 28, 2019

LONDON — Europe’s gathering Jewish question came into sharp focus this month when a British M.P. declared that she had come to the “sickening conclusion” that one of the country’s two main political parties, Labour, is now “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

Imagine, to gauge the import of this statement, Bernie Sanders suggesting the same thing of the Democrats.

Jew hatred has re-entered the European mainstream through a toxic amalgam of spillover from vilification of Israel, the return of the Jewish plutocrat as hated symbol of the 1 percent, and the resurgence of the Jewish “cosmopolitan” as the target of ascendant nationalists convinced a cabal of Jews runs the world.

The British politician was Luciana Berger, who is Jewish and has been M.P. for Liverpool and Wavertree since 2010. She has watched, with dismay, as Jeremy Corbyn has allowed a demonological view of Israel to foster Jew hatred in the Labour Party since taking over its leadership in 2015.

So, I asked in an interview, is Corbyn an anti-Semite? “Well,” she said, “he’s certainly been responsible for sharing platforms with anti-Semites and saying things that are highly offensive and anti-Semitic.”

Corbyn, Berger suggested, has contrived to make British Jews different in some way, a process she called “othering.” She’s had to endure “pictures of Stars of David superimposed on my forehead, and my face imposed on a rat, or many rats. There are pornographic images, violent images, oversize features like a witch. You name it, they’ve done it.” Nine months pregnant, the mother of a small child, she’s faced death threats and has to take security measures “a lot more now than I did before.”

Not all the anti-Semitic slurs have come from within the party, but the volume of attacks from the left has convinced Berger she had to quit Labour. “I didn’t make that decision lightly,” she told me, having always believed that Labour was Britain’s anti-racist party par excellence.

Corbyn, who has taken the party sharply leftward from the now reviled Blairite center, and whose anti-Zionism has long been apparent, has insisted, “I’m not an anti-Semite in any form.” He has promised (and promised and promised) to rid the Labour Party of any such poison.

There’s nothing anti-Semitic about sympathy for the Palestinian cause or support of Palestinian statehood or disdain for the rightist government of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and its kick-the-can policies to prolong or eternize the occupation of the West Bank. That should be obvious.

But where anti-Zionism crosses into anti-Semitism should also be obvious: dehumanizing or demonizing Jews and propagating the myth of their sinister omnipotence; accusing Jews of double loyalties as a means to suggest their national belonging is of lesser worth; denying the Jewish people’s right to self-determination; blaming through conflation all Jews for the policies of the Israeli government; pursuing the systematic “Nazification” of Israel; turning Zionism into a synonym of racism.

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See also;

The Algemeiner: UK Newspaper Investigation Uncovers Links Between Top Corbyn Aide and Anti-Israel Terror Groups

The New York Times: The Persistence of Anti-Semitism

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Rep. Omar Again Sparks Controversy Using Anti-Semitic Dual Loyalty Smear

From The Tower:

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D – Minn.) has again sparked controversy by employing the classic anti-Semitic trope of accusing Jews of dual loyalty, the New York Post reported Sunday.

The rebuke followed an exchange with Omar’s Jewish colleague, Rep. Nita Lowey (D – N.Y.), who had defended Omar over a poster that tied the freshman representative to the 9/11 terror attack.

“Gross islamophobic stereotypes – like those about @IlhanMN recently featured on posters in WVA – are offensive and have no place in political discourse. Anti-Semitic tropes that accuse Jews of dual loyalty are equally painful and must also be roundly condemned,” Lowey had tweeted on Saturday. Lowey, however, continued, “Lawmakers must be able to debate w/o prejudice or bigotry. I am saddened that Rep. Omar continues to mischaracterize support for Israel. I urge her to retract this statement and engage in further dialogue with the Jewish community on why these comments are so hurtful.”

Instead of apologizing or even acknowledging Lowey’s support, Omar doubled down, responding, “Our democracy is built on debate, Congresswoman! I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee. The people of the 5th elected me to serve their interest. I am sure we agree on that!”

“No member of Congress is asked to swear allegiance to another country,” Lowey corrected Omar. “Throughout history, Jews have been accused of dual loyalty, leading to discrimination and violence, which is why these accusations are so hurtful.”

Last week at a forum in Washington D.C., Omar said, “So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

This prompted columnist Jonathan Chait of New York magazine to observe, “Accusing Jews of ‘allegiance to a foreign country’ is a historically classic way of delegitimizing their participation in the political system.”

Omar was also rebuked by Rep. Eliot Engel (D – N.Y.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the committee on which she sits, for her comments last week. Engel said, “I welcome debate in Congress based on the merits of policy, but it’s unacceptable and deeply offensive to call into question the loyalty of fellow American citizens because of their political views, including support for the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

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I’ve Faced the Charge of Dual Loyalty

From The Atlantic:

It was anti-Semitic then, and it’s anti-Semitic now.

March 7, 2019

I’m all for new voices in the U.S. Congress. But lately, some of those new voices have been voicing some very old canards.

I’m talking about Representative Ilhan Omar, one of the newly elected Democrats who populate the 116th Congress. Omar has attracted much news coverage, and the condemnation of most of her fellow Democrats, for promoting some ugly tropes about Jews.

First, when questioning long-standing congressional support for Israel, she blamed the campaign money provided by pro-Israel supporters. “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” she tweeted.

After apologizing for that comment and acknowledging her need to be “educated,” she followed with another tweet, questioning the “allegiance” of supporters of Israel, intimating that we place the concerns of Israel above those of the country that we call home.

No one is questioning the right of members of Congress and others to criticize Israeli policies. But Omar is crossing a line that should not be crossed in political discourse. Her remarks are not anti-Israel; they are anti-Semitic.

Whether consciously or not, Representative Omar is repeating some of the ugliest stereotypes about Jews—tropes that have been unleashed by anti-Semites throughout history. She is casting Jewish Americans as the other, suggesting a dual loyalty that calls our devotion to America into question.

Maybe I’m sensitive to this charge of dual allegiance because it’s been wielded against me in some of my political campaigns. I’ve been accused of actually being a citizen of Israel. (That’s not true, although my father was an Israeli immigrant to the United States.) In 2002, well before Donald Trump and other “birthers” questioned Barack Obama’s citizenship, I had to produce my U.S. birth certificate in my first run for Congress to disprove false assertions about my background and loyalties.

But it’s not just me who’s been subject to questions of dual loyalty. For centuries, this trope has been aimed at Jews in countries around the world. In embracing it, Omar is associating herself with calamities from the Spanish Inquisition to the Russian pogroms to the Holocaust. That’s not historical company that any American should want to keep.

One doesn’t have to be Jewish to recognize the deep and abiding relationship between the United States and Israel. Yes, there might be serious problems with Israel’s democracy—just as we’re currently experiencing our own. But Israel shares fundamental values with the United States that most of its neighbors have never embraced.

In Israel, women can vote and serve in the armed forces. So can members of the LGBTQ community. Its Arab citizens can vote, form political parties, and serve in the Israeli Parliament. And Israeli women can drive—just as badly as the rest of the population.

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Does voice have a gender? For trans singers, old categories are breaking down

From The San Francisco Chronicle:

Joshua Kosman

Growing up in England, Elspeth Franks felt sure that singing would be her career of choice. She had a large and versatile vocal range, and the stylistic flexibility to sing opera, concert works and choral music.

After moving to the Bay Area in 1990, Franks, now 55, established herself as a go-to mezzo-soprano. She performed with regional opera companies, sang with the chorus of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and worked as a church cantor.

The other thing Franks knew — even without the terminology to describe that confident inner knowledge — was that she was transgender.

Five years ago, Franks transitioned to male, taking the name Elliot. Suddenly, the voice that had seen him through all those years of performance had grown deeper and largely unfamiliar.

“I’d gone from a range of 3½ octaves to one, although a very pretty one,” he said. “All the things I knew how to do with my voice, all the tricks, the way I formed vowels for resonance — none of that works the same way it used to.”

It’s not all about the octaves, either. Franks is just one of an increasingly visible number of trans singers in the classical world who are challenging long-accepted notions about the intersection of gender and music. Operatic and choral singers, long segregated into rigid categories by vocal range, tonal qualities, body type and even simply gender, have begun to push back.

For San Francisco’s Breanna Sinclairé, 29, the gender transition came earlier, and has been a central part of her development as a professional opera singer. In the process of going from male to female, she felt her naturally expansive voice grow steadily stronger in the upper register. Sinclairé began singing as a tenor, but soon shifted up to countertenor, a male singer who specializes in falsetto singing. After her transition, she established herself during studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as a mezzo-soprano, and is now developing her top notes on the way up to life as a soprano.

On New Year’s Eve, Sinclairé, became the first trans singer to appear with the San Francisco Symphony when she sang an aria by Saint-Saëns on the stage of Davies Symphony Hall.

“It was an honor to debut with such a celebrated orchestra,” said Sinclairé. “I’m proud to be one of the trans opera singers who are breaking these barriers. In the end, we put in the work and want to be treated as musicians just like everybody else.”

The audience responded warmly to her performance, said conductor Edwin Outwater, who led the concert. “It was a historic moment — and she hit a full, beautiful high B-flat, which she didn’t have to do!”

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