Holocaust Analogies in a Time of Crisis

Numerous Holocaust analogies have surfaced in the wake of recent Daesh attacks, and the renewed attention drawn to the Syrian refugee crisis. I don’t oppose analogies to the Holocaust or Nazi Germany on principle. Granted, they’re almost always inapt and ham-fisted. At times, they can be incredibly dangerous. But at other times, they can be politically useful. Drawing an analogy between the AIDS crisis and the Holocaust, for instance, allowed activists to combat the stigma associated with the disease, and with gay men in general, by casting those afflicted as victims of persecution rather than agents of perversion. The AIDS/Holocaust analogy is widely derided now, sometimes fairly and sometimes not, but there’s little doubt that it was a powerful rhetorical device, or that it helped radicalize the public conversation about the disease. Continue reading

Posted in Left-wing Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Defining “Socialism”

When you’re laid up with a particularly bad cold, certain things tend to irritate you more than they ordinarily would. As such, Bernie Sanders’s comments about the police force being a “socialist” institution, and clickbait articles like this about how Denmark’s “socialist” economy is “better for business,” have struck an especially dissonant chord with me over the past couple days, mainly because I’ve been squinting at them through bleary, watery eyes. Still, I should probably ease up on Sanders. No, he’s not really a socialist, but that’s been established about as fully as it could be, and it might be time to let it rest. I’ve been laying off Corbyn, Iglesias, and Tsipras, after all. I might as well extend the charitable silence to one more reformist candidate. I’d like to reflect a little on the word socialism, though, and my personal efforts to impose my preferred nomenclature on other people. Continue reading

Posted in Left-wing Politics | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Donald and Bernie, America’s Davidic Redeemers

Recently, we’ve seen a spate of articles suggesting that Donald Trump may be the face of a new American fascism. Somewhat surprisingly, these have come from both the left and the right. Conor Lynch, a writer for Salon, argues that Trump brings out the GOP’s “family resemblance” to fascism by heightening its racism, its emphasis on tradition, and its militarism. Libertarian writer Jeffrey Tucker points to Trump’s supposed mercantilism as the core element of his would-be tyranny. In a more rigorous piece, political theorist Justin Mueller draws on Robert Paxton’s The Anatomy of Fascism to analyze Trump’s success in “mobilizing passions” through nationalist, racially charged rhetoric. While some of these analyses (particularly Mueller’s) are compelling, I would say all of them overstate the novelty of Trump’s campaign. Continue reading

Posted in Left-wing Politics | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Liberal Arts Education as Vocational Training

In retrospect, my expectations for Fareed Zakaria’s In Defense of a Liberal Education were pretty unrealistic. Considering his support for the WTO, the initial invasion of Iraq, and various other things I find rather objectionable, I probably should have expected that his views on higher education might also clash with my own. Still, Zakaria’s recent book is marketed as defending the liberal arts on the basis that “the university is much more than a vocational school.” With that in mind, I was a little alarmed to find that a staggering proportion of Zakaria’s defense of liberal arts education hinges on how well it prepares students for the job market. Continue reading

Posted in Academia | Leave a comment

Bernie 2: Immigration Boogaloo

Okay, we need to talk about Bernie Sanders’s recent comments on immigration, and specifically how they counter the most common left-wing apologetic for his campaign. The usual defense of Bernie from otherwise jaded leftists is something like, “Sure, he’s no Eugene Debs, but you can’t deny that he’s popularizing socialism and helping point the American left in a more radical direction!” Sanders’s statements about immigration, though, provide pretty provocative evidence that (a) he’s not popularizing socialism, just redefining it, and (b) if he’s really moving the left in any sort of direction, it’s toward a familiar populist dead-end. The key thing to understand is that Bernie’s anti-immigration position isn’t some conservative aberration in his politics. It’s either a natural outgrowth of what could very well be Sanders’s deep-seated neoliberalism, or it’s a key element of his explicitly nationalist brand of pseudo-socialism. Or it’s some combination of the two. In any case, Sanders is someone the left should be wary of. Continue reading

Posted in Left-wing Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On the Cascadian Megadeathquake

I’d like to talk a little bit about that recent New Yorker piece about how screwed Seattle and Portland are going to be when the next earthquake along the Cascadian subduction zone hits. According to the article, seismologists predict an extended, magnitude ~9.0 earthquake that will extend from northern California to southern British Columbia. Stephen Peterson, my friendly neighborhood skeptic, has already written a pretty thorough point-by-point response to the piece, but I have a couple points to raise myself. Continue reading

Posted in Left-wing Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

This Political Correctness Is Makin’ Me Thirsty!

Jerry Seinfeld piped up a couple weeks ago with some complaints about “political correctness,” which were widely hailed as groundbreaking because apparently it’s still 1997. Seinfeld’s main target was college students. He noted that a lot of his comedian friends tell him to stay away from colleges because the audiences are “so PC.” The stakes are high for Seinfeld and other comics because, as Seinfeld has said elsewhere, if people get offended now, they don’t just complain––they try to ruin your career. In the wake of that recent Vox article by “Edward Schlosser,” Seinfeld’s comments have a sort of cultural resonance, and this means that the term “political correctness” has, I’m sorry to say, burst back into the national vernacular. Continue reading

Posted in Left-wing Politics | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment