Pixel Scroll 7/20/17 Be Vewy Quiet – I’m Hunting Pixels

(1) CORE DYSTOPIAS. James Davis Nicoll tempts fate every two weeks with a list of core sf. Today’s entry is “Twenty Core Dystopias Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”. The first four items are:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

(2) SCA JOINS THE 21ST CENTURY. The Society for Creative Anachronism has promulgated “The SCA Harassment and Bullying Policy”.

The SCA prohibits harassment and bullying of all individuals and groups.

Harassment and bullying includes, but is not limited to the following: offensive or lewd verbal comments directed to an individual; the display of explicit images (drawn or photographic) depicting an individual in an inappropriate manner; photographing or recording individuals inappropriately to abuse or harass the individual; inappropriate physical contact; unwelcome sexual attention; or retaliation for reporting harassment and/or bullying. Participants violating these rules are subject to appropriate sanctions. If an individual feels subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, they should contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or the Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman. If a participant of the SCA becomes aware that someone is being harassed or bullied, they have a responsibility pursuant to the SCA Code of Conduct to come forward and report this behavior to a seneschal, President of the SCA or Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

The following statement must be posted at gate/troll at every SCA event in a size large enough for people to see it as they enter our events. This language must likewise be quoted in ALL site handouts at every event a site were a handout is made available.

THE SCA PROHIBITS HARASSMENT AND BULLYING OF ALL INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS.

Participants engaging in this behavior are subject to appropriate sanctions. If you are subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, or if you become aware of anyone being harassed or bullied, contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or your Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

(3) POTTER SPIRITUALITY. Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer of the Washington Post discuss the “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” event at the Sixth and I Synagogue in “Hundreds pack DC hall to discuss podcast exploring Harry Potter as a sacred text”. The podcast is now #2 on iTunes and “has inspired face-to-face ‘Potter’ text reading groups–akin to Bible study rather than book club–in cities across the country.”

Touring the country this summer, the podcasters have been met night after night by adoring, mostly millennial crowds who want to soak up their secular meaning-making. For the growing slice of Americans who label themselves “spiritual but not religious,” Casper ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan are kind of pop stars.

The irony is, the pair are skeptical about secularism.

“It doesn’t speak to people’s hearts and souls,” Zoltan said during a recent interview. “I get that people get connection and meaning from Soul Cycle, but will [those people] visit you when your mom is dying?”

Zoltan and ter Kuile are complicated evangelists for their own cause. Even as their following grows, they are still pondering some big questions: Can non-traditional types of meaning-making build community? Can texts that are deeply moving to readers truly hold them to account in the way Scripture has among the God-fearing?

(4) JOB INSECURITY. The Washington Post has a piece by Travis M. Andrews and Samantha Schmidt on the firing of Kermit’s voice, Steve Whitmire.  Reportedly, Whitmire was publicly grumpy, as in a 2011 interview on “Ellen” where he said he “was often mistaken for a green fire hydrant.”  Also, Howard Stern (!!) has weighed in, saying that “the odds of you making a money-generating career” as a puppeteer are “next to nothing” and “do not lose that job under any circumstances.”

(5) MINDS FOR MISCHIEF. Nicole Hill has picked out “6 Robots Too Smart for Their Own Good” at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Robots, man. You can’t live without them (unless you vacuum the old-fashioned way), and quite often, you can’t live with them—at least, not without massive, horrifying, oft-accidental repercussions.

That’s not to say all robots are bad. Quite the opposite. Sometimes, though, their massive brains work in ways that aren’t quite healthy—for them or for us.

Clever 4-1 (Prey of the Gods, by Nicky Drayden)

In a novel chock full of dueling goddesses, genetic engineering, and general mayhem, Clever 4-1 manages to stand above the fray while contributing directly to it. You see, Clever 4-1 awakens both at a troubling time and in the nick of time: the personal assistant robot gains sentience just as his master has awakened his own inner divinity. Just as an ancient demigoddess unleashes a plan to regain her former glory by bathing South Africa in blood. Just as all hell is breaking loose, Clever 4-1 starts out to find others of his kind who have gained sentience, to marshal their forces, to assist and do good. As with any nascent movement, you’ll have your leadership coups, and Clever 4-1 has to balance politicking with near-constant danger on his shoulders. Well, not shoulders.

(6) THE OLD SWITCHEROO. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn found there was a completely obvious reason for Louisville Fandom Fest to announce a last-minute change of venue.

You see, this announcement came in the wake of the Kentucky Expo Center telling the world the con wouldn’t be held there first. After attendees were concerned that the con wasn’t listed on the Kentucky Expo Center’s event calendar, they reached out to the venue asking what was up. The venue’s management responded on Twitter that not only was the convention not being held there this year, but that the con never had a contract for the space.

Although, as JJ points out:

What the Kentucky Expo Center actually said was:

We do not have a contract for FandomFest at our facility.

This leaves open the possibility that there was a contract at some point, but that it was cancelled, due to contractual breaches such as, I dunno, maybe something like non-payment of advance reservation fees.

(7) STREET VIEW. Google Maps adds the International Space Station.

The International Space Station has become the first “off planet” addition to Google Maps’ Street View facility.

Astronauts helped capture 360-degree panoramas of the insides of the ISS modules, as well as views down to the Earth below.

Some of the photography features pop-up text descriptions, marking the first time such annotations have appeared on the Maps platform.

(8) HENDERSON OBIT. LASFS member Lee Henderson, who sometimes handled the gaming room at Loscon, died July 17. He was working on an auto when the car jack became dislodged and the car collapsed on top of him.

He is survived by his wife and two children. His mother, Rita, has started a GoFundMe hoping to raise $10,000 for funeral expenses.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Space Exploration Day

The origins of Space Exploration Day date back to man first walking on the moon, with the day itself first observed to commemorate this historic event during events held in the early 1970s. It is about more than just the moon landings though and is intended to pay homage to the incredible achievements of the past and fire up enthusiasm for the benefits of space exploration efforts to come in the future.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 20, 1969 — Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the Moon. He also placed the U.S. flag there.
  • July 20, 2017 – John King Tarpinian munched his commemorative Moon Pie, as he does each year on this date.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 20, 1949 — Guy H. Lillian III

(12) LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARILY EXPENSIVE TOYS. Nerdist doesn’t want you to miss its exclusive news story – about Mattel’s Justice League Barbies.

For almost sixty years now, Barbie has been a Jane of all trades, having had careers as a school teacher, a pop star, a super model, and even an astronaut that one time. Name an occupation, and Barbie has probably had her turn at the wheel at some point. And now, Barbie is getting her chance to be one of the iconic superheroes of the Justice League!

(13) FORMERLY THE FUTURE. Yesterland is a site about retired Disneyland attractions, like the Flying Saucer ride.

If you’ve never looked at this ride closely, you might think it’s just a colossal air hockey table with a fleet of ride vehicles that can scoot above it. But it’s much more complicated—and much more ingenious—than that.

The Flying Saucers ride uses a big, blue oval, bisected into two halves, each with thousands of round air valves, Each half has a movable arm. There are four fleets of 16 saucers. Unlike other “batch load’ attractions, this one loads efficiently.

As the ride cycle begins, a giant arm slowly swings away from the loading area, releasing your group of saucers. Air valves directly below your saucer lift it up.

Tilt your body to make your saucer scoot across ride surface. Wherever you go, your saucer actuates air valves as you pass over them. All the lift comes from below. Your saucer has no moving parts—or, more accurately, you’re the only moving part of your vehicle. You can go remarkably fast. ….

(14) GAME OF THRONES ALUMS FIND THE LOST CAUSE. The New York Times sums up reaction to David Benioff’s and D. B. Weiss’ next project, Confederate.

It was supposed to be HBO’s next big thing: a high-concept drama from the creators of “Game of Thrones,” set in an alternate America where the Southern states seceded from the Union and slavery continued into the present day.

Instead, the new series, called “Confederate,” has provoked a passionate outcry from potential viewers who are calling out HBO and the creators over how they will handle this volatile mixture of race, politics and history. Several historians and cultural critics are also skeptical about whether the “Game of Thrones” team, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, are the right people to address the subject and if it should be attempted at all.

“Confederate” arrives at a time when many minorities feel their civil rights are under siege, and when issues surrounding the Civil War and its legacy — the propriety of displaying Confederate flags; the relocations and razings of Confederate monuments — continue to confront Americans on an almost daily basis.

To its critics, the show’s promise to depict slavery as it might be practiced in modern times is perhaps the most worrisome element of “Confederate.” They say that slavery, a grave and longstanding scar on the national psyche, especially for black Americans, should not be trivialized for the sake of a fantasy TV series.

(15) FOZ MEADOWS ON ‘CONFEDERATE’. Here are the first few tweets in Foz Meadows’ commentary.

(16) JEMISIN ON HISTORY. N.K. Jemisin tweeted her skepticism about the supposed gradual withering away of slavery that’s postulated in both real and alternate history. Well-placed skepticism, I’d say – this is a country that needed almost a full century after the Civil War to pass the Voting Rights Act. The same attitudes would have conserved slavery. Follow this tweet to find her complete statement.

(17) DEL ARROZ ON JEMISIN. Jemisin says at her Twitter account “I use robust autoblockers due to harassment.” No wonder. Jon Del Arroz spent a day this week rounding up people to harass Jemisin after supposedly discovering he was one of those blocked.

(18) THANK YOU VOTERS OF THE INTERNET. The heir of Boaty McBoatface is a Swedish train says The Guardian“Trainy McTrainface: Swedish railway keeps Boaty’s legacy alive”.

It’s happened again. A public vote to name four trains running between the Swedish cities of Stockholm and Gothenburg has resulted in one of the four being called Trainy McTrainface in an echo of the name chosen by the British public for the new polar research vessel.

Trainy McTrainface received 49% of the votes in a poll, jointly run by Swedish rail company MTR Express and Swedish newspaper Metro.

That placed it well ahead the other three options: Hakan, Miriam and Poseidon.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, lurkertype, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, John DeChancie and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

140 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 7/20/17 Be Vewy Quiet – I’m Hunting Pixels

  1. @Robert Reynolds:

    Words in a document notwithstanding, sooner or later, the southern states would have been forced by economic realities to become more industrialized and less dependent on the agrarian society

    That is highly arguable; enough people were rich and powerful as a result of agrarianism that the move to industrialization would have been slowed, at least. (Bear in mind that the South saw itself as so rich that they deliberately burned a large part of a cotton harvest in order to pressure the British to support them.) An alternate view: in our history the South only industrialized because northern manufacturers were running away from unions — which they could not have done across a hostile border. The CSA would not have had George Washington Carver, and it wouldn’t have had any more Whitneys moving south, or immigrants memorizing mill plans and walking away from dead-end apprenticeships — they would have ended up even worse (as southern whites had their own rigorous hierarchy), instead of being given the keys to the mill as happened in Providence.

    @Arkansawyer: the Boston busing crisis was over 40 years ago, and was one small and sometimes-despised segment of one city.

  2. Alice: You guys kept slaves until you were forced to stop at gunpoint.
    Bob: Oh yeah? Well you guys were racist too!

    That’s pretty much a textbook example of false equivalence. Racism and slavery are not the same thing, even if the former nearly always involves the latter. Heck, countries which banned slavery long before the US ever did still had (and have) massive racism–and still have something to be proud of!

    As for the idea that slavery would have naturally withered away in the South? The fact that slavery is still so common, even in places where it’s illegal, makes me doubt that. Yes, it would almost certainly have changed drastically–but with it written into the Confederacy’s Constitution, I suspect people would have found ways to make it work.

  3. @Meredith:

    I’m pretty sure we tried that crush-them-under-our-boots thing after WWI and it didn’t end well.

    Where? WWI ended with an armistice; Germany was blamed and ~indebted-by-treaty, but it wasn’t occupied, let alone crushed.

    One impulse-to-war I’ve seen raised in mundane fora but not here was that 1860 was the first time a President won the electoral college with no votes at all from what became the CSA; they knew they’d lost the leverage that forced compromises in the past. Whether this was a result of what Reynolds calls the deliberate fracturing of the Democrats is arguable.

  4. @kathodus: and where did this happen? Most states have backwoods sections — cf Beagle’s co-motorcyclist saying that in his part of upstate New York some of the necks were as red as the barns — but condemning an entire region because of outliers is closer to Trumpism than I think you meant to be.

  5. @Chip Hitchcock:

    The fracturing of the Democratic party was the result of southerners realizing they were losing their leverage. Lincoln not winning a single electoral vote from the states which later formed the CSA occurred because he wasn’t even placed on the ballot in most of those states, not because the Democratic party was fractured. Southerners fractured the Democratic party rather than support Douglas and his doctrine of “popular sovereignty”. This isn’t “arguable”-it’s historic fact.

    http://study.com/academy/lesson/the-1860-democratic-national-convention-the-party-splits.html

    The “fire eaters” faction in the south organized a walkout at two separate Democratic conventions held to pick a presidential nominee, thus fracturing the party and leading to multiple candidates and guaranteeing Douglas effectively had no chance of winning. The “fire eaters” wanted secession and used Lincoln’s election as the wedge.

  6. @Chip – I come from a small town in Northern Indiana. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find more than tiny, college town-based bubbles of un-backwoodsiness in that state. Additionally, several Northern states are still engaging in voter suppression tactics that target, among others, minorities. Chicago, not exactly a backwoods city, is infamous for its redlining and segregation; the governor of Michigan, through nepotism, incompetence, and neglect, poisoned a largely-black community’s water supply. Etc.. Nor is the list of Sundown Towns in the US confined to the South.

    I’m not condemning a region, per se. If I’m condemning anyone/thing it’s the entire country. And like I said, my reply was a reaction to Steve Davidson, who said:

    I think the only mistake Lincoln made was on insisting that the secessionist states be brought back into the union. They should have been told the US didn’t want them anymore, stripped of everything and subjected to punitive invasions whenever it looked like they were starting to develop an industrial infrastructure, with a concommitant very liberal immigration policy for any and all non-white “southerners”. (Non-whites would have been given an opportunity right after the war to leave the south.)

    That attitude seems very smug to me, and reminds me of people I grew up with who gleefully look down on the South while denying their own issues. It’s the kind of attitude that leads to people saying Obama set back race relations 50 years, because he tried to start a national dialog about it.

    Again, I’m not defending the South, or suggesting they be coddled in their self-infantilizing delusions about rising again, or their laments of “it’s our heritage!” about their traitor’s flag, or their pathetic attempts at claiming the War was about states’ rights. I’m just very uncomfortable with the idea that the North is significantly superior to the South when we have so many massive racial problems throughout the country, North and South.

  7. @ Robert Reynolds
    Yep, the fire eaters split the Democratic Party because Northern Democrats, particularly Douglas, refused to agree to their demand for a federal slave code (so much for their fabled respect for states’ rights). This was the penultimate time they practiced their previously successful tactic of political blackmail – Do what we want or we’ll break up the Union. As you noted, popular sovereignty had already failed. Douglas refused the demand for a slave code because it was political suicide outside the South.
    With the Democrats running two tickets, one North and one South, Lincoln could win,even though he was not on the ballot in any Southern state (owing to censorship and violence, there was no Republican Party in the South). Lincoln’s election suited the fire eaters quite well, as the perfect excuse for secession.

  8. Just put a hold on Fire on the Mountain to be sent to my local library; I should get it next week. I’m sure I’ve seen recommendations for this book before, but either they were focused on the wrong things and so didn’t catch my interest, or my interest in the issues the book raises has increased in recent years. I suspect a mixture of both.

    And yes, the North is racist; it’s a different form of racism than what you see in the South, but it’s definitely there.
    – The governor(?) of Illinois, talking about a disastrous flood in Cairo: “Well, Cairo — have you been to Cairo? Then you know what I mean.”
    – The treatment of Detroit, and of Flint, both of which are majority-black.
    – Northern states are every bit as bad as Southern ones about acquitting cops of the cold-blooded murder of black people.

    Yeah, people in the North don’t support slavery or the Confederacy, but that’s a damn low bar, and by and large they don’t get a whole lot higher. Institutionalized racism is rampant.

  9. Ghostbird:
    Thinking about it, my obvious alt-history show suggestion would be to option The Years of Rice and Salt. I found it rather long and boring as a book, but I think it would work well for a big sprawling character-based series. It’s even got a “controversial” premise to generate press coverage.

    I did not like it. The “Journey to the West” vibe at the beginning got me questioning if it was alt-history or fantasy. Things didn’t improve for me & it was a struggle to finish.

    Chip Hitchcock:
    @Soon Lee: “again”? When did he stop?

    Not someone I follow on Twitter, so benefit of the doubt, while accepting of being wrong.

  10. Lee on July 22, 2017 at 2:17 pm said:
    Yeah, people in the North don’t support slavery or the Confederacy, but that’s a damn low bar, and by and large they don’t get a whole lot higher. Institutionalized racism is rampant

    Yes, it is a low bar but given that many aren’t getting over it is a substantial issue.

    I get how it happens – in the UK or Australia it amazes me how many people find it hard to accept that invading-somewhere-and-taking-all-the-stuff was a bad thing, even though you’d think it was a relatively simple moral question. People want to find special pleading as to why it was OK if it was done as part of the magnificent history of the ostensible good-guys in their narrative of history and also so they can ignore any sense of a lingering debt.

    I think, above all, that implication of a debt is what magically turns “slavery is wrong” and “stealing people’s land/country/stuff is wrong” from basic, universal moral truths into things, that if you mention them, mark you out as a dangerous leftist stirring up trouble.

  11. In 1783, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that slavery was not consistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, marking the legal end of an already unpopular institution four years before the US Constitution was even written.

    Many states had granted the vote to free property owners right after the Revolution, but after 1800, states started rolling that back for blacks and for women, even while voting rights were being expanded for white men. The only states where black men never lost the legal right to vote were Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

    Interracial marriage has been legal in Massachusetts since 1843. There was a period, starting in 1913, when a marriage could not be legally contracted if the couple resided in another state, where the marriage could not be validly contracted, and intended to continue residing in that other state. Although the law was on the books, it was rarely enforced until 2004. Remember what happened in MA in 2004? The sudden spate of local jurisdictions enforcing that old, ignored law wasn’t about opposition to interracial marriage, and in 2008 that law died the True Death.

    Massachusetts is far from perfect, including on racial issues, but the idea that race shouldn’t decide legal rights is pretty old and well-established here.

    Opposing slavery and Jim Crow would seem to be a pretty low bar, but the South had to be dragged over the slavery bar at the point of federal bayonets, and the Jim Crow bar by only slightly less forceful federal action a century later.

    That’s a significant and morally relevant difference. And yes, the Boston busing crisis was a shameful episode in our state’s history, but no, it’s not remotely the same thing as fighting a war to preserve the right to treat human beings as property, or continuing, over a century and a half later, to celebrate as heroes the people who did so.

    And that’s the point, really. No one is arguing that racism isn’t a national problem, but if your response to condemnation of the celebration of the Confederacy is to shout, “The north is racist, too!” You are engaging in distraction, not discussion.

  12. msb: The 1860 split in the Democratic Party may not have been as critical as it seems; Lincoln won absolute majorities in enough large states to win the Electoral College, even if the anti-Lincoln vote had all gone to a single candidate.

  13. @kathodus: right — the state that leads on every movement to pass reactionary laws in this country? I don’t know what happened to them when after the major contribution they made to the Union, but offering them now as representative of the North is playing fast and loose with facts.

  14. I was offering Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan as representative of the North. Not as familiar with the Northeast, which you and Lis seem to be thinking of more.

    I’ve been reading Sundown Towns by James W. Loewen after reading about it in the afterword of Ruff’s Lovecraft Country. Normally I’d back down and say “well, okay, maybe Indiana really is an outlier and most other states are more enlightened.” Even though Illinois to Indiana’s West, Ohio to Indiana’s East, and Michigan to its North are also excellent examples of virulently racist states (hmm, maybe Indiana’s exuding some kind of toxin that makes people virulently racist?). But the data presented in Sundown Towns supports what I’m saying. It’s possible that somebody in the US has cause to be proud of their region’s racial history, but it seems unlikely that a little digging won’t bring up something in the past 100 years that gives the lie to that pride. Slavery was a poison that infected this entire country to the point where we can’t even have a national discussion about race.

  15. Too-late-for-the-edit-window addendum: I highly recommend Sundown Towns, or rather Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism (full title). It’s horrifying. I thought Matt Ruff was probably exaggerating a bit in Lovecraft Country, but it seems that is not the case. If he can retain his sanity doing so, he could mine our bubbling-barely-beneath-the-surface Cyclopean stores of racial hatred for years, churning out book after book of systemic racism horror.

  16. @ Jim Parish
    Thanks for that point. I will have to read further (but doesn’t one always). Can you recommend anything about the 1860 election? My reading here doesn’t go much further than Battle Cry of Freedom. Though I’ll never forget Catton’s book, which started with William Yancey standing on a porch in Chatleston.

    @ Camestros & Lis
    Bingo!

  17. @kathodus

    I had a very similar experience – I kept on googling for elements out of Lovecraft Country I the grounds that they must be fictional, and finding they very much were not.

    (In case that sounds like some transatlantic point-scoring, you could do a very similar exercise on e.g. the history of the British in India)

  18. Msb: I enthusiastically recommend Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. It’s very insightful about all the figures who were competing to become President in 1860, and then continues on through the Lincoln administration where most of his Republican rivals served in his cabinet.

  19. @Heather Rose Jones – I’ve been eyeing that. Gonna need a break from my “holy shit I’m a citizen of the Evil Empire” reading after this. Probably some Pratchett.

  20. When I was visiting LA recently for Corflu, I had lunch at Clifton’s Cafeteria. I heard about it because it was in the Green Book, and because Ray Bradbury was a regular there. I read a great review by S. M. Oakes on her Remains of LA dining blog, and determined to go. When I got back from lunch, Glyer told me that Clifon’s was a regular LASFS hangout. I can totally understand why. It is a wonderful place: a shining star of fellowship, good food, and imaginative decor. It has outlasted the Depression, World War II, and Jim Crow. It cheers me up every time I think about it.

  21. @msb: No, I only knew that bit because someone mentioned it and I checked the numbers on Wikipedia. It’s not all that surprising, though; in most states, it was basically a two-party race, either Lincoln vs. Douglas or Breckenridge vs. Bell, with some other combinations in the border states.

  22. Missed the edit window. It seems I overstated the two-party bit; Breckenridge did pull a fair number of votes in some Northern states, and Douglas likewise in the South. Still, there were only a few states where Lincoln only had a plurality.

  23. @kathodus @Mark: I had a similar reaction; in fact, while I liked Lovecraft Country very much, I thought the novel was undercut a bit by the fact that the virulent real-world racism was so horrific that its Lovecraftian elements paled a bit in comparison (something that Ruff more or less admits at the end of the book).

  24. @kathodus – I read Sundown Towns earlier this year, found out that a small town about 25 miles north of me, Waverly OH, was one of the earliest of that ilk. Then I visited Loewens’ website and found out that several towns in my county may have also been sundown towns. And I’m 64 years old; a lot of the shit described in that book happened within my lifetime. I never knew a lot of it. This country has swept a lot of horrible stuff under the rug.

  25. The alt-history show I’d like to see – The confederates win, then 30 years later there is a successful slave revolt and blacks take over the Confederation. The still quite racist Unionists have to figure out how to deal with the new Confederation; there could be a lot of interesting possible stories here.

  26. @Lis Carey: I agree with much of what you say, but am only half-onboard with this:

    No one is arguing that racism isn’t a national problem, but if your response to condemnation of the celebration of the Confederacy is to shout, “The north is racist, too!” You are engaging in distraction, not discussion.

    That’s fair. I also think this is fair: If your response to the national problem of racism as it is practiced today, North and South, is to shout, “But the Confederacy!”, that is also distraction rather than discussion. I don’t think you did that, but I know a fair number of northerners who do. That’s neither honest nor useful on their parts.

  27. @kathodus: now you’re playing loose with time rather than space; you said the whole U.S. ishorribly racist, not was. I’m not surprised at 50-year-old examples, or even at Ruff’s observation in Lovecraft Country that Democratic areas were worse than Republican; in the last gubernatorial contest before I moved out of my home state, Spiro Agnew defeated a Democrat running under the slogan “Your home is your castle — protect it!”. But Mahoney lost — and so did David Duke when he ran in the deep South more recently.

  28. @Chip

    now you’re playing loose with time rather than space; you said the whole U.S. is horribly racist, not was.

    I feel very safe in my assessment that the US is still horribly racist. I could cite multiple decisive examples from the past year, or two, or 10, or we could just agree to disagree on that subject.

  29. I’m sure you can cite individual examples; so can I — and I can cite counterexamples (try Googling “Not in Our Town”, for a start). I think damning over 300 million people from a handful of examples is throwing out not just the baby but the house and the neighborhood along with the bathwater.

  30. kathodus and Chip Hitchcock, I think you guys may be in furious agreement. <wry grin> As best as I can tell, Chip isn’t saying that Racism Is Solved; kathodus isn’t saying that Racism is Just As Bad As It Ever Was.

    Can you both agree that the US, as a nation, has made some significant steps forward, but also has a considerable way to go? A black man in the White House was very significant, and yet so is the shooting of black men by cops with little or no repercussions.

    Me, I’m really, really hoping (but not honestly expecting) that some of the recent rise of racism is an extinction burst. If not that, it’s certainly a pendulum swing. I think we can all agree that we hope the pendulum swings back, and further…

  31. @Cassy B – I suspect we’re on opposite sides of the half full/half empty argument.

    That said, I wasn’t thinking so much of anecdotal evidence as I was of, as I mentioned before, the poisoning of Flint’s water; Chicago’s long and continuing crisis that seems to have been pretty much caused by redlining and other racist policies; the fact that sundown towns still exist and that the phenomenon of sundown towns/suburbs probably peaked in the early 70s; that most Americans still don’t know very much about sundown towns or the white riots that literally destroyed African American communities throughout the US in the early- to mid-20th Century… And yes, that was all a long time ago, but the national dialogue on race has never acknowledged or dealt with all of this. We haven’t as a nation faced our legacy of extreme racism. It’s rare to even see anyone from the US acknowledge the long, slow genocide we committed against the indigenous peoples of the US. We have something in common with Turkey in this regards.

    I’m not saying we need to give up or anything – we should keep the baby, we just need to acknowledge all the poop in the bathtub and clean it up.

  32. I’m sure you can cite individual examples; so can I — and I can cite counterexamples (try Googling “Not in Our Town”, for a start). I think damning over 300 million people from a handful of examples is throwing out not just the baby but the house and the neighborhood along with the bathwater.

    This is a #NotAllMen argument.

    One of you is saying that the US is, in aggregate, powerfully and demonstrably racist. The other is saying, “But you can’t say that about everyone!”

    The beach is hot. Not all the grains of sand that make up the beach are hot. But the beach is still hot.

    It’s not as if these “handful of examples” exist in a vacuum, isolated outbreaks of racism while ordinarily, black people and Mexican-Americans get treated exactly the same as whites. They’re in context with a wider, systematic racism that allows this stuff to happen.

    The “handful of examples” is not the whole of the problem, any more than the idea that the US is racist means each and every individual is at the same point on the racism spectrum.

  33. @Kurt: if so, @kathodus’s is similarly dishonest. (Is there a #ThisThereforeAll ?) kathodus claimed individual examples, so I answered that claim. I do not argue that the beach is cold; I disagree that it is hot enough to cook an egg on — or that kathodus has even shown it to be tepid, which I might find plausible.

    @kathodus: very few countries are fully aware of any of the dark, or even unfavorable, parts of their own history; I do not think this makes them “horrible”. (Local examples: AFAICT most of the US still believes that Russia blinked in the Cuban missile crisis and doesn’t realize that we replaced a democratically-elected leader with a king in Iran — within living memory.) wrt Flint specifically, I think you are confusing racism and classism — which is a common mistake of the bluer parts of the US, and leaves (IMO) gaping holes for fake populists like Trump to drive through. wrt redlining: again, that’s history which a large part of the US population is trying to fix; the fact that social problems (e.g., the results of redlining) don’t yield to a quick solution, or that the US is not willing to throw infinite money at fixes that may or may not actually work, does not damn the US now, any more than the presence of a Superfund site damns the current owner. (Amerces, maybe, but doesn’t damn.)

  34. @Chip Hitchcock – I may be wrong, possibly foolish, but I’m not being dishonest.

  35. @Chip: “kathodus claimed individual examples, so I answered that claim.”

    I find it intriguing how allegations of systematic bias are addressed, and your argument follows a standard (and odious) pattern. First it’s “I don’t see it, so it can’t be that serious” – or, in your case, “that was then, this is now.” Then examples are mentioned, and the response is “anecdotes are not data.” If statistics are shown that demonstrate unequal treatment, they’re either dismissed or used to blame the victims – “they must be doing something to deserve it.” And when all else fails, the blame is shifted to something else, like class – as if systemic racial bias plays no role in keeping minorities poor.

    The bald fact is that 2017 America is a place where a white man can stroll around carrying an AK-74 and get a calm talking-to, but an unarmed black man can get shot in the back because the cop “feared for his life.” A white man breaking into a car in broad daylight can get help doing so, but a well-off black man can get the cops called on him for entering his own home or driving an expensive car. (None of those are hypothetical cases.) That’s systemic racism at work. There are too many specific, documented cases with video evidence to pretend otherwise with any credibility, and the attempt only discredits the person making it.

  36. If you want to know about your own country’s history, read the school books of your neighbouring countries.

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