Steven L. Taylor
Thursday, February 2, 2023
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective.
He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog).
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One thing that has struck me in reading through the Jan. 6 testimony is that despite much and many intelligence reports that things would get feisty on that day, leadership intentionally ignored and undercut valid, true intelligence.
The first answer I arrive at is subconscious racial and political bias. The leaders of the guardians had a subconscious bias that white people don’t riot, do not attempt to breach. Also, political bias. Right-leaning folks respect law & order. They will not attempt to breach to enact a political coup to over-turn election results. Even though it was repeatedly said and reported that that was their explicit goal.
Meanwhile, intelligence said that many folks in the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, 3 Percenters groups were prepping for war, revolution, insurrection. Many reports saying the same thing basically. Noted and filed, pushed up the chain of command.
Leadership dismissed it.
Imagine if there was a massive BLM rally at The Ellipse on Jan. 6 with a planned, anticipated march on the capital complex after. Imagine the preparation for that. Imagine the threat prep that would happen.
This was not a system failure, it was a leadership failure. The on the ground system worked, but no one in leadership paid appropriate attention. What was going to happen was known, predicted. I knew it was gonna happen and I am just some random idiot.
What happened was predicted and foretold and, yet, almost zero preparation against a known foe.
Willful or not, this was an example of blatant unpreparedness. And likely racial and political bias.
Not a systemic failure. The body knew what would likely happen, but the head ignored it for various reasons.
I am gobsmacked at the lack of preparation for a known threat, a predicted potential coup.
That January 6 happened at all and was able to overwhelm security at the Capitol complex and breach it is a major stain on the national soul. And could have easily be been thwarted given basic preparation.
The things I never knew:
Salisbury Steak Was Supposed to Be a Cure-All for Union Troops in the Civil War
Wondering where all our Free Speech Warriors are about now. Seems like every time some evil progressive suggests a change to common usage, we get dozens of messages on the evils of censorship, followed by stern warnings about how woke censors took over kidlit and they’ll be coming for all books soon.
And yet right now in Florida, the state government has made it illegal for teachers to have ANY books in their classrooms. Granted, that’s only temporary — because the state government is examining every book ever published and determining which ones support the governor’s chosen ideology and will be allowed in schools and which ones will join the vast majority of those banned forever.
And somehow the Free Speech Warriors can’t even be bothered to type out a message.
So remember, kids — if someone on the left criticizes a book or a speech, that’s censorship. If a quasi-fascist right wing government actually bans books, that’s no big deal.
@Scott: Hot water or coffee implies boiling and that would have had a positive effect on dysentery on its own. If the beef was well cooked that would also have been positive.
I’ve wondered if all the beneficial effects attributed to various teas come from the fact that, prior to coffee, tea was the only reason people boiled the water they drank.
@wr: I know you are being sarcastic here, but I think your observation informs a running debate we have here: whether the majority of people (70-80%) can be swayed by philosophies or programs, or whether they are primarily team based. While it brings a type of satisfaction to point out hypocrisy like this, in a sense it’s not really hypocrisy. “Free Speech”, “Lower Deficits”, “Get Government Out of Our Lives” are just the equivalent of team colors for most people and have no real meaning. You could just as easily substitute three different slogans, or the exact opposite of what they are saying now and the majority of voters wouldn’t even blink an eye. It’s makes no more sense to berate them for hypocrisy then berating a Giants fan because the exact shade of blue doesn’t represent what they think it does.
Also the reason why “small beer” (or wine, further south) was pretty universally drink in medieval Europe. Water was best avoided.
Yeah… I’ll take the whining about subsidizing ev purchases seriously the instant that the 6500 lb gvwr tax incentive gets repealed or even discussed by the same parties. Writing off the entire purchase price of a 95k+ Escalade twice seems like a much bigger benefit and more expensive than a 7500 tax credit.
Yes and yes.
Although wine, liquors, and beer were also means of preserving crops.
@Thomm: oops. Wrong section
@wr: I have read that a number of lawsuits have been filed.
Hmmm… sounds like grooming little children for a cult, very similar too what they did in China during the cultural revolution.
There are no wrong sections in the Open Forum. It’s a free-for-all.
They absolutely are. Tea is credited with London’s rapid advancement in the Industrial Revolution. In most places at the time, growing urban populations (moving to the city to work in the factories) came with a significant rise in illness due to sanitation issues. This didn’t happen in London (as badly) because the preferring drink was tea–which was boiled.
QI had a segment on it. 🙂
@wr: This seems a bit over the top.
There’s room to be pissed off about a cadre of scolds trying to tell writers what they can or can not write about AND be pissed off at conservative idiots actively banning books. Both are bad.
I mean *I’m* irritated at both. Can I not be mad at both? I have to pick?
@Mu Yixiao: Also, too, I’ve read that sugar sweetened tea provided a lot of the cheap calories to keep the industrial revolution workforce going.
Years ago I read an article about a study of late 19th century diets. They studied old cookbooks and restaurant menus and whatever and concluded the average diet was huge, IIRC north of 8,000 calories a day. Remember it was a world of manual labor, much more outdoor activity, walking almost anywhere you went, and at best indifferent building heat.
Thanks for the comments.
I’ve little experience with temps below freezing, and then only about 4 or 5 C below. it just doesn’t get that cold here.
One time, though, we needed some photos of the inside of a meat freezer at work. It was so cold inside, the digital camera wouldn’t work. We wound up taking photos with an old film camera.
I think the temp was -20 C.
Tidbit, when Celsius set up his temperature scale, he marked the boiling point of water at sea level as zero, and the freezing point as 100. This was later reversed.
Had it not been, and assuming the scale had been adopted to the same extent, imagine the confusion when converting to F degrees, when -120 C would be superheated steam, and 140 C liquid nitrogen.
So now you’re outraged over censorship because it’s censorship from the Right. An equally valid interpretation of events, eh? Censorship for thee, not for me?
Another explanation – since this is aimed at me – is that I’ve been here only rarely over the last few days because I’m ass-deep in family drama around putting my father in a home. And whether his ass is being wiped as speedily as it should be. Also gallstones and kidneys are involved.
Let me tell you something: all of this is entirely predictable. I know, because I predicted it. Push the pendulum and the pendulum swings back. Surprise. Publishing caved abjectly to the Left and the College Board caved to the Right. Now exactly what principle is it that we are meant to be defending? I’m genuinely curious. Is it still freedom of speech? Because I was told that was an outdated idea no longer appropriate for the modern world.
I said when it first arose that CRT was a political mistake. Too much at the wrong time. Truth? Sure. Duh. But wrong time. And I was told – with much loud scorn – that CRT was just an academic theory that was not in classrooms at all. And I said, ‘bullshit.’ And the answer is? Bullshit. Because CRT went straight into classrooms with the utterly predictable reaction.
Now, @wr, if you missed the pushback from writers you just aren’t paying attention. In my little corner we are contributing cash and social media support and rejecting dates in red states. We make bulk buys of censored books and find ways to distribute them free to kids. And I am building (at shocking expense) a web site to keep our backlist available, but also as a self-pub operation for us and potentially other writers, precisely so that I can write free from censors of Left and Right.
Now that we’ve talked about my world, I’m curious, @wr, how much noise you made over Hollywood censoring movies for the Chinese market. Publishers lay down for the Left, the College Board laid down for DeSantis, but no one caves like Hollywood. I note that Marvel is starting to get opening dates in China again. Good money in exchange for compliance with the dictates of a murderous government. I’ll bet you wore yourself out writing to studio heads.
Agree wholeheartedly. As someone once observed of the Iran-Iraq war, either side is so annoying you wish they could both lose.
The best argument you have is that publishers are happy to release cynical attempts to cash in on wokeness which backfires in public once real readers start reading them–i.e. American Dirt, which still sold well but which was a piece of middlebrow crap. I think 9 times out of 10 a book like American Dirt slips through and nobody notices it and the industry which pretends to think it’s a good book does not end being called out. But because of the 1 in 10 chance. Publishers are now wary of this PR fiasco. At the same time, Knopf just published a new Bret Easton Ellis novel, and he’s extremely anti-woke and there’s been no controversy.
And as far as censorship goes, I know someone who edits SF and she spends time working with her male writers on toning down on what she thinks of as overt misogyny. That is in fact censorship, and if you want to self-publish so you can describe every female character’s breasts you are welcome to do that. But it’s also editing for a market that has changed long ago. You can’t write like that now. I suspect that the majority of complaints are coming from the people being edited for this reason.
I don’t know, TBH, I’m not dealing with those people right now. I can however tell you that my complaints have nothing to do with writing outdated misogynist stereotypes, rather the opposite. The first real Action Grrl in mainstream kidlit? I created her. A YA alt-history of WW2 where women fight alongside men? Me. And I could go on in that vein, but even I get tired of my own wonderfulness.
My beef with publishing and Hollywood is not about ‘woke’ it’s about ham-fisted, galumphing, incompetent and self-congratulatory woke. See, I think if the objective is to actually change hearts and minds the best approach is not to scream I’m changing hearts and minds, look at me! The better approach is to let the writing speak for itself. I also produced the first interracial middle-grade romantic relationship. Guess how much pushback there was. None. Because I didn’t issue a fucking press release announcing my intention to uplift the ignorant masses with my superior wisdom.
Do it right: hearts and minds are changed. Do it wrong: you get this fiasco.
I get really tired of activists who cannot even conceive of a negative reaction, let alone prepare for one. Charge! Full speed ahead! And when someone points out they’ve just charged into an ambush, the answer is a self-righteous attack on those who suggested a more measured, more moderate approach.
According to CNN, Trump today threatened not to endorse the winner of the Republican presidential primary if it’s not Trump himself.
He’s specifically going after Haley, Pompeo, and, of course, DeSantis in an “attempt to stigmatize their brands in the eyes of Republican primary voters and mirror his sccuessful 2016 caricaturing of vorers.”
I think that there’s just a lot of kitsch out there. A Thomas Kinkade painting of a forest relies on you not knowing what a forest is and what a real painting might be. Transform that product in an examination of race (or whatever) in America, and it will come off badly because it relies on you not knowing anything about race in America and what a real book might be. Meaning well does not equal insight.
I can think of another example from a person I know who passed on a novel which attempted to be pro-immigrant but which to them was filled with every stereotype about immigrants. It was written of course by a white woman and when it was released there was a minor stir (can’t remember exactly–might have been more than minor) because the author was white and the book was filled with every sentimental stereotype imaginable. But the person I know predicted all of that simply by reading the ms.
We can only hope this is true:
At the vote to kick Ilhan Omar off her committee Dem’s are on fire.
AOC is a force.
Some clips are on this feed…scroll thru.
I think Talleyrand was wrong. The enemy should be encouraged to double down on their mistake, not merely be left alone to make it.
For instance, I think benito is bluffing and is too cowardly to do as he threatens. he also lacks follow-through. He’ll meekly endorse whoever beats him, see if he doesn’t.
Sarah Huckabee will be giving the GOP response to Biden’s SOTU Address.
I predict the Gov. of Arkansas, which is amongst the most economically fubar States in the Nation, will tell us how Biden is destroying the US economy.
~1/3rd of Arkansas’s budget is covered by the Federal Gov’t (Blue States).
@Jen: “There’s room to be pissed off about a cadre of scolds trying to tell writers what they can or can not write about AND be pissed off at conservative idiots actively banning books.”
Of course there is. I was merely pointing out that our resident free speech warriors frequently lecture us about the horrors of progressive scolding and have not issued one peep about state-sponsored book burning.
I’d be thrilled if they seemed to be actually bothered by the latter.
@Michael Reynolds: “So now you’re outraged over censorship because it’s censorship from the Right. ”
No, because it’s censorship by the government.
@Michael Reynolds: So you’re still buying Rufo’s lies that CRT was in classrooms, even though he has publicly admitted that he made it all up — that he decided he could make the term toxic. You’ll just fall for any Republican spin as long as it trashes the left.
Sorry to hear about your father.
@Michael Reynolds: My primary problem with any critique of CRT is that it’s way, way too vague. Unfortunately that includes you. You say that CRT went straight into the classroom. I wonder how. Which statements were objectionable? Who said them, what books are they in.
For instance, if a teacher were to say that black slaves were captured in Africa and shipped to America in chains on ships where they lived on plantations and could be sold away from their families on the whim of their master, you would be saying stuff I learned in grade school. Is that CRT?
Now, if you were to say that the Civil War was about the South trying to preserve the rights of slaveholders to hold slaves, that would be new stuff, and also not new stuff. “Lincoln freed the slaves” is also a grade school thing with me. It wasn’t until grad school that I got “The war wasn’t about slavery”, which seemed a bit odd. Then, because of the internet, someone introduced me to the South Carolina Articles of Secession. So yeah.
I find neither of these topics objectionable as material for grade schools. I don’t think they constitute pushing too hard or too fast. I mean SC got rid of the Confederate flag, right?
So what *is* the material that’s objectionable for grade schools, or for high schools? We never seem to get down to brass tacks. To me, in the case of DeSantis, that’s because facts would be far less scary than a hunt for monsters under the bed, so it doesn’t work for him politically. But I don’t know what’s happening with you.
And by the way, my sympathies for your ongoing drama. These sorts of things are really difficult to deal with.
@daryl and his brother darryl:
Ilhan Omar’s full speech.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I haven’t spoken up about it because it’s far more complex than “They be burnin’ books!”, and I’d like to form an informed response.
It’s easy to jump on progressives and their stupid antics and pearl clutching because it’s a simple–and silly–situation. Whereas things involving state legislative action and threats of 3rd-degree felony convictions is very much not.
Am I upset about it? Damn straight! But something this big, this egregious, requires more than tossing off some insults in an online forum. I haven’t had time to do more than skim a few MSM articles about it. I haven’t read the actual statute (it’s bookmarked), read any commentary from legal experts, or heard anything more than passing comments about how it’s actually being enforced.
I thought, just maybe, I should do some of that before commenting.
I was with you until your last sentence about Trump meekly endorsing whomever the primary winner turns out to be. Not. Going. To. Happen. Trump is far too vengeance-driven.
I’m almost positive he’ll form a third party–The Trump Party, what else?–and run as a third-party candidate, ensuring that the Democrat will win the general election. Will he care? Not in the least.
Aside from the “what the actual hell” reaction, this is a weird sentence:
It’s a nine-year-old child. How do you mistake a 9 year old for a “little Black woman”?
Story via NYT: Someone Called the Police on a Girl Catching Lanternflies. Then Yale Honored Her.
@de stijl: I replied to your question late last night, so in case you missed it:
I found this article, where someone searched for the source of the figures and wrote:
It’s very interesting that the writer of the article points out that the Stanford Study’s conclusions are flawed and outdated, but still cited frequently with few people knowing where the information came from.
I was thinking the exact same thing.
When Tamir Rice was murdered in 2014 the police said he was 20. He would have turned 20 last November.
@Michael Reynolds: @wr: So, if I have the score straight
– Michael is insufficiently woke or incorrectly woke because he disagrees about tactics and teminology, and that makes him morally equivalent to people who are anti-woke
-wr is a hypocrite because he treats actual censorship, i.e. by the government, as more harmful than social censorship, i.e. a lot of people yelling about something or other.
OK. I think I got it. Proceed.
@Modulo Myself: I’m curious: have you read the book in question?
Yeah, those silly progressives understanding that an endless stirring of hate against trans people, black history, and Oberlin students criticizing a mediocre sandwich was going to end up with states banning books, colleges, and health care for trans people. What were they thinking?
Speaking of Trump and revenge: He told Hugh Hewitt today that he (Trump) would be “entitled to a revenge tour” when he is re-elected. He then added that he wouldn’t do that, because he was focused on “moving America ahead.”
To which latter comment I reply with a resounding: “Bullshit.”
Tried to. I thought it sucked and was derivative and I was bored pretty quickly. Didn’t finish it. My experience with a lot of bad ‘literary/thrillers’ is that they are neither literary nor believable thrillers and the characters feel like they are made out of television and movies the author references as sources.
Thing is I’m not the audience for the book. I’m sure a lot of people enjoyed it. But the book had the misfortune of ending up in the crosshairs of people who are well-read and (more importantly) did not give a shit about calling out the obvious and cynical mediocrity of what passes for literary content
I assume you are putting me in that category. If you’ve read any amount of the things I’ve written here and come away thinking that I’m OK with book burning then, well, there is absolutely nothing I can say that will move that needle.
To argue about the tactics used in a fight should not be equated with joining the other side.
@MarkedMan: Not all that unusual to see people talking PAST each other here. 😉
One of my complaints with MR is how often he lapses into victim blaming. His response to right wing violence is basically the social equivalent of “you know, he wouldn’t keep beating you if you weren’t always provoking him”.
How did CRT go into classrooms?
The anti-CRT panic is white nationalist bullshit, taking things that have been around for ages, and declaring it “bad, evil, woke CRT”. It has been described by the right as anything “that makes white kids feel bad.”
To the extent it entered classrooms it was way back when kindergarten was created and kids were told they had to share the toys, and when schools were desegregated.
This isn’t a reaction to the excesses of woke leftists, this is a reaction against history, trying to replace it with myths of white greatness — they don’t want anyone to know about the Trail of Tears or the horrors of slavery or that anyone could have objected to Jim Crow.
Just look at all those pictures of fine black men in their suits smiling those big smiles. That’s the “reality” of Jim Crow they want to see. See how happy they were when they knew their place? White men gave them that happiness by giving them structure. White men rescued black folks from the horrors of Africa.
The anti-CRT, anti-woke panic is simply a White Power Washing of American history.
And it has nothing to do with whether an author of Spanish descent can write an authentic narrative of a Mexican immigrant, or whether wheelchair ramps are ableist* or whatever the left is outraged about now.
Anyway, I hope your father gets his ass wiped with appropriately soft paper at the appropriate times. I recall a few comments you have made of a difficult relationship with him (or horrific, but I’m hoping I misremember), and dealing with that while making decisions for his care is going to be painful and hard. Sorry, dude, it all sucks.
*: I just made this one up, but I am sure a google search will show something about how we need to be more sensitive to people with vertigo or something.
I know, Jay, that I am demonstrating the problem of getting distracted by the woke, but one thing recent history has brought home to me is that they weren’t slaves when they were captured. They were farmers and hunters and engineers and builders and parents and children of parents. They weren’t slaves until well after they were captured.
I will step off my box now.
I think it’s ridiculous to treat them as remotely the same, when one has the power of the state and the other is a bunch of loud idiots on Twitter.
It’s the both-sides folks that piss me off.
@Joe: people experiencing slavery.
I was using reverse psychology to encourage mistakes.
You’ll have to catch Trump’s ear, not mine.
I did see. And read it.
Thank you so much for responding not with aggression! I knew my request looked a lot like passive-aggressive “show me the research” beg / tactic. You were cool.
I wasn’t going down that route and was desperately signaling that it was not my intent.
Thank you again for reading my intent as I intended to.
Holy moly! Academics can be extremely petty. Just drill down hard. Wow!
I want to thank you again for being cool. I asked you for something because I was curious. You did not interpret that as threatening / aggressive.
We had a super positive exchange that did not devolve into petty nonsense. I call that a win.
I think that the declarative nature of most internet discourse invites trolling and the inevitable spiral of shit. It does not need to happen.
People can be cool.
Maybe just a wee bit self-serving from someone whose screeds against religion here are the opposite of measured and moderate. Most Americans are religious and or hold religious values near. Attacking, ridiculing, and demonizing religious people does not win hearts and mind or persuade the middle.
Those who wax poetic about measured moderation should either be consistent or forgo the holier-than-thou act.
Silence speaks volumes. What folks do not speak up about is as telling as what they do.
I’m not a “progressive,” but their desire for inclusion is far more complex than “silly pearl clutching.” I don’t think those who caricature activist youth without really listening to them are informed about what these kids are pushing, and why.
Anyway, after everyone has done enough research to know that rhetoric and laws that result in schools pulling all books from shelves are damaging and dangerous, I look forward to the delayed outrage.
It’s a bit over the top to equate Twitter scolds to politicians using the imprimatur of government power.
Be mad at both? Sure. Present them as the same? No.
@Gustopher: I’m not treating them the same, I’m saying that both piss me off.
It is absolutely a free speech violation to have the state (any state) pulling books and using legislation to restrict access to content. It’s a direct First Amendment violation in the most rudimentary and understandable sense.
The content scolds are another issue entirely. They are bullies and policing the speech of others through intimidation and threats. They are using the power of their positions to intimidate and gang up on authors/artists. I hate that sh!t.
They pose completely different threats, I understand that. Understanding that there is nuance here is not “both-sides-ing” it, it’s having the mental capacity to be irritated about different forms of censorship.
It’s not a matter of the the wingnuts in Cheetoland are saying, but what they’re doing. namely banning books, and passing laws cr9iminalizing speech and expression.
Equating them with the scolds on the left, is like saying that Guatemala’s claim on Belize is just as bad as Mad Vlad’s invasion of Ukraine.
Which I have not done.
Everyone here demoting the seriousness of the mob that descended on the author of American Dirt realizes she got death threats, right? How is that okay?
I am outraged about both types of censorship. That doesn’t mean I think they pose the same societal threat. But they are both threats to speech.
Not quite. The scolds have wrecked some authors’ careers. Censorship sometimes works to benefit them.
And one of the critics of American Dirt also received death threats. Meanwhile the book sold 3 million copies. How is that censorship? Honestly, people are crying about the fact that the book was panned by elite critics. Executing taste does not make one a scold.
@Modulo Myself: I don’t think that people realize or understand the forward effect of the pounding on American Dirt has had.
Do you seriously believe that publishing houses will take the risk of offending “elite critics”?
Here’s something I have thought about. I really enjoyed reading Christopher Bojalian’s book “Transister Radio.” It was probably the first exposure I had to a trans perspective outside of The Crying Game.
Do you believe that a straight white man could pitch a book written from a trans perspective today? Or would he be told that it was too risky?
@Modulo Myself: I suspect we both agree that the outrage was not principally over the inverse mediocrity to sales ratio, or else every time we visited an airport bookstore and looked at the top 20 sellers we would be apoplectic. I haven’t read the book, and I applaud you for doing so (there’s nothing wrong with putting down a book you don’t like). But we may differ on the value of the reaction from critics. I find fairly often that things I like are poorly reviewed and things I think were poorly written are raved about and worse, back when I read reviews they were all too often more about the critics themselves or the authors foibles and not so much about the actual book.
A quibble, and not really germane to the larger discussion: It is not “banning” when books are deselected from a school curriculum or even a library. That happens all the time. What we are talking about is the suppression of real histories or ideologies and, in the worst case, substituting false narratives. So heinous, but not banning. Banning is passing a law that makes it illegal to sell a book. In the most extreme cases, illegal to even own it.
Some of y’all are acting like the only components here are the writer, their work, and readers. That’s not true. There’s a whole system that must be navigated, and it’s one that doesn’t really enjoy controversy.
If you don’t get that publishers aren’t going to take chances that will upset The Esteemed Critics, I don’t really know what to say. As a writer and a PR person, I can tell you that the circle of publishers who would be willing to take a chance on an unknown writer is vanishingly small to begin with. Add in even a smattering of controversy, and they aren’t going to want to touch that with a 10-foot pole, *even if it makes money for the publishing house.*
It looks like NASA can relax. AI won’t take over the space program any time soon.
@de stijl: Thank you, I appreciate the kind words! Your question actually made me wonder myself, where did that statistic come from? So thank you, I learned something new, too!
To make a bunch of profit off of controversy that generates millions in sales for books like American Dirt? Probably, because in our culture profit is still the trump card. The amount of vitriol, hate, violent threats, and “shut up!” attempted-censorship directed towards Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will not stop publishers from seeing how much money Spare is making and bidding for its imitators.
Hopefully, Ron DeFascist won’t yank the book from the shelves.
It goes without saying (we hope) that death threats against anyone are extreme and intolerable. Well, anyone except Putin and Prigozhin. Eff those guys.
@DK: To be fair, I have read at least one post by MR in the last year in which he acknowledged that his anti-religion screeds went against his principle of not pissing off potential allies. I haven’t been on here much lately, so I don’t know whether he has followed through on this change.
Nice! Props to him.
@MarkedMan: I may be misunderstanding what teachers have been saying, but getting told to remove all the books from your classroom library (which significant numbers of school districts asked you to start in the first place 🙁 ) until such times as the district has analyzed all the books you could potentially have in your library and told you which ones you’ll be able to reshelve is close enough to banning books to suit this little illiterate and ignint cracker. As always, YMMV.
Praying the New York Times gets around to planning a whole hand-wringing editorial series about it. The way they did about the woke Twitter kids.
This might seem strange to some of you. Bear with me.
Recently one day I woke up. From a deep, hard sleep. I was all sorts of just woken up grogginess and general discombobulated.
It was 6 o’clock and I had no godamn idea or clue whether the 6 was AM or PM. Not one fucking clue. The sky is the same. The amount of traffic is kinda the same.
I used my phone to determine. To figure it out. It basically felt like PM, but it was AM and the sky gradually got brighter which kinda freaked me out.
I don’t know if this is the case for everyone, but being retired and single means that anything goes, all of the time. Sleep schedule is not a schedule and wanders about seemingly randomly. I was likely a vampire in a previous life because I surely do like being wide awake in the middle of the night.
Most weeks I lose track of the days. Tuesday, Wednesday, what is the difference?. Makes almost zero difference to me what day of the week it is. Today just is.
It was a spooky, odd feeling. Just woken up. Groggy. Not knowing if it was evening or mo
HarperCollins published Mike Pompeo’s book. So… yes?
They might shove it under different branding, like Pompeo’s book being under the Broadside Books banner, but if they think they can get sales, they absolutely will.
What’s in Pompeo’s book that’s so awful? No one knows, as no one has read it or will. It’s just a money laundering scheme of bulk purchases from PACs to convert political money to Pompeo money, and is now a NY Times bestseller because of this. Cha-Ching!
But, I assure you, the “Elite Critics” were not dazzled by it. There are whole publishers and imprints that make this their brand.
Not sure Cultural Appropriation Books is really a great imprint, but it would be easy enough to market towards conservatives on the “The Books The Woke Libtards Don’t Want You To Read” line.
@Jen: Did she really receive death threats?
According to Wikipedia, no. In fact, after the article you linked was printed, the publisher denied that there were death threats.
So, I’d say that claim is questionable.
But, given the level of insanity in the world, and how many people make death threats these days, I don’t think we can adopt a standard of Death Threats’ Veto. Not trying to make light of it (we should be hunting the people who make death threats down and jailing them), but it’s not a significant boundary these days (because police have never taken it seriously, and a lot of people decided that meant it was fine).
No, I think the reaction was due to the marketing campaign behind the book, which tried to make it out to be literature rather than schlock.
That’s the job of a critic. Someone says this is like Steinbeck, they get to say it no it’s not. Your argument is that without the obsequiousness of critics completely integrated into a corporation’s marketing then publishing will fall apart is not a great one.
Not that strange.
One, it’s happened to me, not at 6 exactly, when getting home around 2 am after a very long day at work, proceeded by several not-as-long days. And it involved a dark room with blackout curtains.
Two, on summer vacations I’d usually read late into the night/morning, and would sometimes wake up mid-afternoon thinking it was still morning- But that was decades ago.
Do you believe that a straight white man could pitch a book written from a trans perspective today? Or would he be told that it was too risky?
This is a valid point. It made me think of Mary Gaitskill. She writes about women who are not like her–they're overweight, uncool, and dripping with pathos and awkwardness. And she contrasts these women with models and writers (more like her) and puts them together in unequal encounters. I love her and most readers coming from wherever love her. No one is cancelling her because she's writing about overweight women while being rail-thin and curious about what it's like to be 'ugly'.
So I don't think there's any reason why a cis man who plays sports and bro'd out at Dartmouth could not write about a trans woman taking estrogen and working in a cafe which did tarot readings while being paid minimum wage. Honestly, I think most trans people would want to read that. But what they don't want is a refined 'perspective' which is a substitution for awareness of others. That's like historical fiction, where you have to research the exact type of clock a French aristocrat in 1760 would be looking at in order to establish verisimilitude. Otherwise it can't be 1760. You can't do that with people and expect to get away with it.
I would just add that identity is worthless when it comes to actual fiction. So straight white men should ask why nobody calls out gay men for writing straight characters or women for writing men or black writers for writing white characters. It’s men who get nailed for writing all other characters. And then white people and then straight people.
I think the answer might be that straight white men are the most devoted to identity politics, so when it comes to the internal qualia of a non-straight white man all they have is identity, which doesn’t work.
@Gustopher: Thank you for that additional information, I was not aware that the death threat claim had been retracted. Honestly, I’m a little bit irritated that I’m in the position of defending a book I didn’t enjoy. But, bottom line, I think she had the right to write about it, and that the piling-on was uncalled for and absolutely will have a chilling effect, particularly for lesser-known authors.
This is not my argument and I think you know that. My argument is that publishing is a business with razor-thin margins, and risk-averse unless they smell a sure thing. (A tell-all book from a member of the royal family married to an actress involved in a well-publicized spat with his family is an example of a sure thing.) The average published (fiction) book in the US sells about 200-500 copies. Authors make about .05-.07 CENTS per book sold. So yeah, I’m willing to guess that there is an over-reliance on critics who can make or break a book, and that it’s particularly important when there’s been a large advance made.
@Gustopher: The Pompeo argument actually reinforces what I’ve been saying. Publishers are going to be far more willing to publish a book with a built-in audience than take a chance on an unknown author. This is why you’re seeing so many books by bloggers and “influencers,” who have built-in fan bases. Publishers know that politicians are going to purchase a bunch of copies through their PAC to give to supporters/sell at events. Anyone who brings with them the promise of breaking even can circumvent the dependency on good reviews.