Decoding Masculinity (6-11-24)

01:00 What is masculine?
14:00 Matter of Opinion: Trump and masculinity,
32:00 Politico: Evangelicals Hate Stormy Daniels But Love Trump. Here’s Why.,
48:00 Sociologist Samuel L. Perry on White Christian Nationalism
1:23:00 Samuel L. Perry Lecture: “A House Dividing: Why White Christian Nationalism is Everyone’s Problem”
1:29:00 Niche construction,
1:36:40 Niche Construction | How Humans Influence Our Own Evolution
1:39:30 Niche Construction

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Decoding Doxxing (6-10-24)

01:00 The Far Right’s New ‘Badge of Honor’,
03:00 Mark Lilla on left v right,
20:30 DTG on the lab leak hypothesis,
31:00 Problematic,
37:10 10 Days That Shaped Modern Canada (w/ Aaron Hughes, author),
44:00 Elliott Blatt joins the show to talk about realism vs liberalism
46:00 Elliott struggles with street closures in San Francisco for a triathlon
54:10 Rethinking Narcissism: The Bad – and Surprising Good – About Feeling Special,
1:05:00 Ben Shapiro – Candace Owens feud
1:08:00 Israel’s PR problems
1:21:00 Curious Gazelle joins to talk about Destiny
1:25:00 Milo steps away from sodomy
1:31:00 Destiny and Milo are performative “relating to or of the nature of dramatic or artistic performance”
1:34:00 Destiny sticks to his principles
1:48:00 Curious Gazelle’s journey into nihilism

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“Problematic” is a favorite word among academics but they feel insulted and retreat into silence when you ask them to describe their hero system that renders so much of reality “problematic.” According to the Merriam_Webster dictionary, the third meaning of “problematic” is “having or showing attitudes (such as racial prejudice) or ideas (such as falsehoods) that are offensive, disturbing, or harmful.”

The Google NGram viewer shows that books didn’t use “problematic” much until the 1960s.

Similarly, the Google NGram viewer shows that books didn’t use “racist” much until the 1960s.

Racism is a made up moral category that had no currency until the 1960s. Somehow all the great moral thinkers throughout history prior to the 20th Century had no concern about this great evil.

If academics had the strength of their convictions and weren’t afraid of owning up to having a subjective partisan hero system just like everyone else, they’d just say “bad.” But talking about good and bad sounds Christian, so academics pretend to have transcended partisan hero systems, which is impossible.

When academics won’t admit distress because their subjective hero system has been violated, what do they do? As human beings, they must lash out at an offense, but they won’t fight back in a way that is true, raw and vulnerable (a la how American conservatives do when somebody desecrates their nation’s flag), so instead they subjugate their impulses to reference good and evil, and instead employ the careful language of the courtier cocooned in his buffered identity.

In his great 2014 book Rethinking Jewish Philosophy: Beyond Particularism and Universalism, Aaron W. Hughes wrote:

* Rosenzweig’s goal is extremely problematic because it is based on a series of essentialisms that emerge from a particularist rhetoric…

* …the juxtaposition of “Judaism” and “philosophy” is highly problematic, used as it is to serve potentially ideological or political ends.

* …Rosenzweig’s woefully inaccurate understanding and representation of Islam is based on his need to have a foil for his equally problematic and racially charged reading of Judaism.

* Rosenzweig’s essentialist characterization of Judaism and the Jewish people inscribes both with a set of highly problematic traits grounded in racial and nationalistic

* …Maimonides and Rosenzweig—now seen as symbols for medieval and modern Jewish philosophy, respectively— succeed in creating authoritarian Judaisms based on a self-constructed rhetoric of authenticity and what amounts to a rather problematic reification of Jewish peoplehood.

* I suggest that such responses are not “authentic” precisely because authenticity is such a problematic term, one that is always just out of reach and is always constructed. Yet, problematically, Jewish philosophy—throughout its long and winding history—has been and continues to be invested in manufacturing such an authentically Jewish response.

If Professor Hughes sees the problems cited above, why doesn’t he just state the exact nature of the problem instead of resorting to euphemism? I emailed him about his love of the word “problematic”, but I didn’t get a response.

From Reddit:

Why is the word “problematic” so commonly used by those on the political left?

It’s a strange word that I don’t really understand. It’s it’s always felt like a bit of a weasel word to me. I feel like there is always a more assertive and clear way to rephrase the statement.

I’ve spent about half my life in rural America and the other half in NYC and have many friends and family in both places. But I’ve never heard someone from the right describe something as “problematic”. I feel like it’s a word that has only come into use in the past decade or so and I’ve always cringed when I hear it used.

When I hear someone call a persons behavior “problematic”, it feels passive aggressive and vague. It’s like something a risk averse middle manager in a giant corporation would say.

* Because it’s more nuanced than good or bad. Let’s say someone says something mildly insensitive to you about a race, gender, or ability. You don’t want to ignore the comment. You could say “that’s bigoted” but that has a way of turning it onto a confrontation and makes the other person feels stupid and therefore disengage. Explaining that it’s problematic though let’s them know you don’t like why they said without judging them as a person and opens up for more dialog or clarification.

* The whole point of that word that it focuses on a behavior without framing the entire thing/person as a problem. It’s particularly applicable when describing things for which sensibilities have changed. For example, I was talking to a friend about Looney Toones cartoons from the 60s the other day. I was raised on those and I think they’re funny. But there is some insensitive shit in those old cartoons that was cool then, but not cool now. You could say, “those old cartoons are racist”, or you could say, “elements of them are problematic.”

* It’s used by people who understand that these humans and their behavior are complex and people and things aren’t one thing. It facilitates the conversation to have it in a way that is more nuanced.

* “Problematic” is rooted in social criticism and that project is popular with the academic left.

Language is a social construct and it partly signals our influences and social cues. By using language popular with a group, you signal an affinity and in-group association.

Its a gentler word and more indirect way of saying something is a problem, or bad, or wrong.

Gentler and indirect language can be a signal for either empathy or low self-confidence.

Women tend to have more empathy and less self-confidence on average compared to men.

Women also tend, on average, to be politically more left leaning than men.

Political affiliations have cultural and social group associations.

Putting it all together, “problematic” was popularized as a choice word for left wing social criticism because it appeals to sensibilities of critics and their audiences, and signals cultural group membership.

* It literally means that the subject of the sentence causes problems. And those problems may be complicated. I think its a great word to describe complex issues. Problems often have many facets to them.

* The notion of something being ‘problematic’ in discourse probably goes back to post-structuralism (“post-modernist”philosophers such as Foucault, Spivak, Said, etc.).

In the wake of such analysts—who showed how our structures of power influence what we consider to be knowledge (or truth)—we grew more conscious of how our language reinforces arbitrary, contingent (and usually unjust) power dynamics in society.

So, a movement derided as ‘political correctness’ seeks to undo or reorient the power dynamics by changing the language used in discourse. Problematic labels such as ‘The handicapped’ or ‘disabled’ become ‘people with disabilities’ or ‘the differently abled’ because defining a group of people by the abstract label society ascribes to it reinforces the implicit ‘othering’ (and ‘degrading’) of such labels.

If a person, like Kevin Spacey or ‘Cara Dune’ or Roman Polanski, are described as ‘problematic,’ it is because supporting those people would also reinforce implicitly a condoning (or elevating) of what they ‘stand for’ in the discourse. Platforming a problematic person does the same, according to this analysis.

However, as the author Yascha Mounck argued in his recent book those same post-structuralists were ambivalent about such strategies politically, since controlling the discourse is just what Power does, so PC prescriptions are exercises in using ‘knowledge as power,’ and this might lead to the backlash against the ‘authoritarian’ prescription of norms and behavior, seen in ‘cancel culture,’ ‘deplatforming’ endeavors, and self-censoring and protest culture on college campuses.

* Four syllables. May be tricky to spell. Good and Bad are so much easier.

Haley Swenson writes for Slate Mar. 24, 2016:

…the word problematic functions not as an opening into these deeper questions, but as a buzzy shortcut. It can allow the speaker to leave out the most critical arguments the audience needs to hear.

Various riffs on “that’s problematic” abound in edited, formal publications. A couple months ago, NPR deemed the colonial imagery in Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” music video “beyond problematic.” Slate has used the word at least a half-dozen times, and more than once in a headline. At the satirical Tumblr “Everything Is a Problem,” the author promises to “dispense problematics” on any subject or text readers send her way, offering a few lines of righteous indignation before rating different texts on a “problem” scale from one to five. A post about the puritanical, infighting tendencies of the left had the title “Entire Human Race Problematic—Left Can’t Work With Them.” Glancing through #problematic on Twitter suggests these satirists aren’t so far off. Sample tweets include “forgot how #problematic Ace Ventura is” and “Being #WOKE when 99.9% of the planet is a #PROBLEMATIC mess is exhausting. Honestly.”

Though some seem to take issue with the word’s implied political correctness or hypercritical attitude (see also: “-splaining” and the gender-neutral, singular “they”), the real weakness of problematic is that it is misleading and vague. Problematic—“constituting or presenting a problem or difficulty; difficult to resolve; doubtful, uncertain, questionable”—doesn’t actually capture the speaker’s complaint, which is about harm, not difficulty or uncertainty. The speaker is trying to suggest that something in the text constitutes a moral wrong. But problematic undercuts that critique by reframing the issue as a riddle to be unraveled.

The Oxford English Dictionary points to a problematic, as “A thing that constitutes a problem or an area of difficulty, esp. in a particular field of study.” This kind of problematizing is at the heart of academic inquiry—a collective recognition of the best theories and concepts the field currently offers, and then through research or argument or both, working within and around that best-established knowledge to account for things the field currently cannot. But when people don’t come to a discussion with the same understanding of the best theories of the field, or in the case of pop culture, a shared sense of what makes something offensive and what makes it morally and politically sound, calling something problematic seems to miss the point of argument. Instead of convincing someone a particular idea is a bad one, the arguments that follow “that’s problematic” tend to merely point out that the text contains an idea thought to be bad.

In the classroom, some of my most passionate students lean on the phrase when they take issue with a course reading or something insensitive a classmate said. The initially amorphous critique becomes a great place for me to open up discussion, to push the student to articulate his or her problem with something for a diverse crowd of thinkers. “What exactly did you think was wrong with what was said?” I might ask.

But in written work and in the social-media world of quick tweets and posts, “that’s problematic,” is far more unilateral, and far more of a rhetorical device than a dialogue starter. The phrase creates distance between the critic and the argument, placing the problem—racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.—in the text itself, rather than accounting for the subjective reasons the critic can see the harm the text is doing. Calling a text problematic erases the ways in which it interacts with readers’ own politics and experiences to produce its “problem.” We don’t get the full picture of harm done when a person of color watches a show about white people appropriating black culture, for instance. Social and cultural critique are only strengthened when the audience understands how the critic came to see something they missed.

Teresa M. Bejan wrote for The Atlantic Oct. 2, 2021:

Academics like me love to describe things as “problematic.” But what do we mean? We’re not saying that the thing in question is unsolvable or even difficult. We’re saying—or implying—that it is objectionable in some way, that it rests uneasily with our prior moral or political commitments.

For instance, when I described applying Ancient Greek free-speech ideals to social media as “problematic” in a recent article, I wasn’t saying that Socrates’s audience was impossible to please. I was saying that these practices were premised on exclusion in a way that modern egalitarians won’t like. Or when my Oxford colleague Amia Srinivasan describes stand-up comedy in Los Angeles as “problematic,” she’s not saying that she struggled to understand the jokes. She’s saying that they relied on sexism in a way that she—and everyone—should find morally bad.

In principle, every usage of the term problematic should be followed by an explanation. Is the situation or person in question unjust, immoral, or unfair? Racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted? Wrongheaded, perhaps, or just plain wrong? All too often, the explanation never comes.

Rony Guldmann writes in his work in progress Conservative Claims of Cultural Oppression:

This is why the ethos of disengaged self-control and self-reflexivity would have been inconceivable for pre-moderns. The latter were not “buffered,” and this is why they could not have “stepped back” from their total teleological immersion into naturalistic lucidity. The anthropocentricity of pre-moderns was in the first instance a function, not of limited knowledge, but of their particular form of agency—the nature of the boundary, or lack thereof, between self and world. The crucial difference between moderns and pre-moderns is not that the former, unlike the latter, believe that their mental states originate in a physiological substratum interacting with the rest of the physical world (producing either “delight” or “annoyance” as Hobbes says), but that the former, unlike the latter, have a form of consciousness and identity within which this proposition is intelligible in the first place. A pre-modern couldn’t seriously contemplate the thought that “it just feels this way,” not because he was ignorant of his feelings’ causal springs, but because he was porous rather than buffered, because his basic, pre-theoretical experience of the world did not permit any clear-cut distinctions between the inner and the outer, between how things feel and how they are. This is a difference, not of beliefs, but of the pre-deliberative disposition to “distance” from one’s pre-reflective, pre-theorized layer of experience…

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Decoding Israel’s Stunning Hostage Rescue (6-9-24)

01:00 NYT: Israel’s Euphoria Over Hostage Rescue May Be Fleeting,
02:00 The Hill: At least 210 Palestinians reportedly killed during Israeli hostage recovery operation,
03:00 NYT: The audacious operation did little to resolve the many challenges facing Israel’s government.
05:00 Nahum Barnea: The military incursion into Rafah must be stopped… it won’t save Israel.
06:00 The Biggest Lies In Contemporary Discourse,
08:00 Is Israel Committing Genocide?,
12:15 CNN: Genocide charges against Israel,
16:00 A proposal to end the war,
27:10 Sam joins the show from Haifa
47:30 The Hezbollah threat
49:00 Petrodollars,
1:11:00 Defense Mechanisms 101: A Complete Run-Down Of How They Develop & Why We Need Them (Until We Don’t),
1:12:30 Claire Khaw joins
1:17:00 The delusions of human rights activists,
1:25:20 The military challenge of Hamas has been solved by the IDF
1:50:30 Nationalism is good,
2:06:15 Radical reactions to anti-white racism,
2:16:00 Tucker Carlson’s restraint with foreign intervention
2:24:10 End of the Liberal Order & Return of War – John Mearsheimer, Alexander Mercouris & Glenn Diesen,
2:32:00 Shakespeare’s tragedies,
2:57:00 The rise of Christianity,
3:13:00 Livelier than the living,

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The Hill: At least 210 Palestinians reportedly killed during Israeli hostage recovery operation

Most people would be glad to kill 210 members of the enemy to rescue four members of their own team.

The Hill reports:

Israel’s latest hostage rescue operation, which brought four Israeli hostages to safety, also killed at least 210 Palestinians, including children, according to a Gaza health official.

Noa Argamani, 25, Almong Meir Jan, 21, Andrey Kozlov, 27 and Shlomi Ziv, 40 were rescued by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Israel Police and Israel Securities Authority, the IDF said in a joint statement.

The special operation, a heavy air and ground attack, took place in two different locations in Nuseirat in central Gaza. All four hostages were kidnapped from the Nova music festival, according to the IDF.

The bodies of 109 Palestinians including 23 children and 11 women were taken to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, and spokesperson Khalil Degran told the Associated Press that more than 100 wounded also arrived to the hospital. In addition, he said the rest of the 210 Palestinians killed were taken to Al-Awda Hospital after the spokesman said he spoke to the director there. But the numbers at that hospital could not be confirmed by the AP.

The New York Times reports June 9, 2024:

But by Sunday, euphoria was already giving way to a harsh reality. The heavy air and ground assault that accompanied the rescue killed scores of Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials. And the operation failed to resolve any of the deep dilemmas and challenges vexing the Israeli government.

Eight months into its grinding war in Gaza, Israel still appears to be far from achieving its stated objectives of dismantling Hamas’s military and governing capabilities. And Israelis fear that time is running out for many of the hostages in Gaza. About a third of the 120 that remain have already been declared dead by the Israeli authorities.

At the same time, Israel’s leadership is grappling with an escalation of hostilities across the northern border with Lebanon and battling increasing international isolation and opprobrium over the war in Gaza, including allegations of genocide that are being heard by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The rescue mission “doesn’t solve a single one of the problems that Israel has been facing ever since October 7,” wrote Nahum Barnea, a leading Israeli political columnist, in Sunday’s popular Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

“It doesn’t solve the problem in the north; it doesn’t solve the problem in Gaza; and it doesn’t solve the slew of other problems that threaten Israel in the international arena,” he added.

Why would deaths of the enemy diminish Israeli joy? Gazans have consistently made clear through their choices that they wish the total destruction of the Jewish state. Why would Israelis not feel similarly about the Gazans?

No sane Israel-supporter expected this rescue mission to solve other problems. What a bizarre framing for this Times story.

Nahum Barnea, the great sage, wrote May 26, 2024:

The military incursion into Rafah must be stopped. Not because the International Court of Justice ordered it, but because the cost outweighs the benefit. We can debate for days the judges’ motives, their integrity and their judicial rigor, but it won’t save Israel.

Barnea wanted to stop the incursion that rescued four Israeli hostages and now he wants to diminish the significance of the rescue because it makes him look bad.

I put the phrase “won’t save Israel” into Google News and got dozens of results.

Who seriously argues that any one act by Israel will save Israel? Nobody.

The Times headline: “Israel’s Euphoria Over Hostage Rescue May Be Fleeting”

All euphoria is fleeting. Name me one euphoria that goes on for years.

John J. Mearsheimer and Sebastian Rosato write in their 2023 book, How States Think: The Rationality of Foreign Policy:

…when states believe their survival is at stake, they do not hesitate to kill large numbers of civilians if such murderous behavior will help them avoid defeat or massive casualties on the battlefield. Britain and the United States blockaded Germany during World War I in an attempt to starve its civilian population and force the Kaiserreich to surrender. The United States also relentlessly firebombed Japanese cities beginning in March 1945 before dropping atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, to bring World War II to an end and minimize American casualties.

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